Reporter Sam Van Schie gets pointers from BC Transit’s Rob Brown.

Nelson Star reporter Sam Van Schie behind the wheel of a city bus

I’ve always been one to thank the bus driver when I get off at my stop.

I’ve always been one to thank the bus driver when I get off at my stop. But after being given an opportunity to drive a bus myself, I’ve gained a new appreciation for these men and women who have learned to safely navigate busy city streets as people chatter away behind them.

BC Transit invited local politicians and media to try driving a full-size Nova bus and the smaller Vicinity through some obstacles set up in an empty parking lot last week. It was meant as a demonstration of how much easier the Vicinity is to handle, though I found both difficult to drive. The takeaway lesson for me was that bus drivers have tough jobs.

The course we drove through was set up like a mini bus roadeo (yes, a bus roadeo — that’s a real thing). We had to get one of the rear tires through a line of tennis balls, then make a series of tight turns around pylons and reverse into a parking stall, before accelerating through a diminishing clearance and trying to stop within six inches of a pylon. All this while judges on the ground marked our performance, deducting points each time we hit a cone or had to shift into reverse to realign the bus.

Three of us attempted the course: myself, Nelson mayor John Dooley, and Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff. Fortunately, we weren’t alone behind the wheel. Standing by our side and giving us pointers along the way was BC Transit safety and training officer Rob Brown, who happens to be a seven time national champion in bus roadeo.

Brown showed us how to work the pedal-controlled turn signals and punch buttons on the dash to get the bus into gear. As we drove he let us know what mirrors to look in to see the side of the tires and when to start cranking the wheel to make sure the back end of the bus would clear the obstacle.

Even with considerable guidance it was a challenging task. Driving the Nova, I managed to get a pylon jammed in the rear wheel well and drag it a few metres without noticing and none of us were able to get through the final cones without knocking two or three down. I didn’t fair much better in the Vicinity.

Each trip through the course only took about six minutes, but boy was I glad when I pulled up to that final pylon and pulled the lever for the parking break. The judges told me I didn’t do too bad. On the final score sheet I was just half a point behind Dooley and 35 points better than Chernoff.

Still, I don’t foresee a career change in my future. When it comes to transit buses, my proper place is definitely as a gracious passenger.

Just Posted

Nakusp bust finds drugs, guns, stolen property

Woman released on promise to appear in court in October.

More passengers travelling through West Kootenay Regional Airport

First quarter reliability and passenger numbers up at Castlegar’s Airport

VIDEO: Endometriosis: the most common and dangerous disease you’ve never heard of

Nelson woman brings new video to the Capitol Theatre this week

Two car accidents in one day in Nelson

Police say both drivers are OK

Cost of hockey continues to climb for Nelson Leafs

Hockey expenses have increased $100,000 over the last four years

VIDEO: After 73 years, siblings separated by adoption reunite in B.C

Donna Smith of Abbotsford and Clayton Myers of Williams Lake are glad they met each other

VIDEO: Rare white killer whale captured by drone near Campbell River

The transient orca has been named Tl’uk, a Coast Salish word that means ‘moon.’

B.C. oil tanker ban squeaks through final vote in Senate

Bill C-48 bars oil tankers from loading at ports on B.C’s north coast

Teens have privacy rights, doctor tells inquest into B.C. boy’s opioid death

Elliot Eurchuk died of a drug overdose. He was found unresponsive in his bedroom in April 2018

’When thunder roars, go indoors’: How to keep safe before lightning strikes

Each year, an estimated 10 deaths and as many as 164 injuries are lightning-related

B.C. rolls out online registration to speed up evacuee processing

Central Okanagan district tests province’s streamlined emergency management digital self-registration

NHL Draft 2019: First-round mock selections

Hughes expected to go No. 1 overall; Canucks have 10th pick

B.C.-born Carey Price brings young fan to tears at NHL Awards banquet

Anderson Whitehead first met his hockey idol after his mother died of cancer

Licence issue delays boozing while cruising on BC Ferries

Planned June launch for alcohol sales delayed

Most Read