Bus driver asks public for a fair go

By Mathew Dearnaley

Other road users need to improve their behaviour says long-serving driver

A bus driver left Kimberley Hunter's son Oliver (left, with mum) on the side of the road. Photo / Sarah Ivey
A bus driver left Kimberley Hunter's son Oliver (left, with mum) on the side of the road. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Auckland bus driver Nico van der Zwet has spoken up in defence of his beleaguered profession and challenged other road users to improve their behaviour.

"It seems to be 'pick on a bus driver' week and I would like to present to the public our story of the matter of driving a bus," he said after successive Herald reports of mishaps at the wheel.

Mr van der Zwet, who has driven buses for 12 years and trucks before that, said he did not condone the actions of drivers accused in the past week of various hair-raising actions.

Those included using handheld phones at the wheel, forcing a car on to a motorway shoulder, leaving a 6-year-old boy beside a busy road and doing a U-turn into oncoming traffic on the harbour bridge.

Terrified passengers jumped out of a bus on Auckland's harbour bridge after it turned around into oncoming traffic this week.
Terrified passengers jumped out of a bus on Auckland's harbour bridge after it turned around into oncoming traffic this week.

But in letters to passengers and motorists (see below), he appealed for even-handed treatment, given outrageous behaviour by other road users which he said bus drivers encountered daily.

Recent examples included a 4WD, followed by a scooter, shooting along the emergency shoulder lane of the Northwestern Motorway between Rosebank Rd and Patiki Rd, to avoid a traffic jam, and a car with a teddy bear dressed to look like a passenger using an on-ramp express lane for vehicles with two or more occupants.

But his most shocking tale was of a woman speeding down Chinaman's Hill on Great North Rd in Western Springs at night last year on a skateboard with a baby in the arms she should have been using for balance. "She was going at the same speed I was, at least 50km/h, and guess what she's holding? - a baby, on the skateboard," he said.

Auckland Tramways Union president Gary Froggatt said he had no complaints about the Herald's coverage of "just an unfortunate set of circumstances".

"Bus drivers have got to conform with the law like everybody else," he said. "Most bus drivers are pretty good but we've got 1200 in Auckland and there will always be some who will not do the job they are paid to do, perhaps because of family pressures or people forced to come to work because they are sick."

Mr Froggatt said he understood the Ritchies driver who u-turned his bus on the harbour bridge on Monday was "totally disoriented" because of diabetes and would have to be cleared by a doctor before being allowed back on the road.

Howick and Eastern Buses, meanwhile, has completed an investigation into the dumping of 6-year-old Oliver Hunter beside a busy road last week, saying the school bus driver involved will keep her job but be closely monitored for at least six months. Oliver's mother, Kimberley Hunter, said she did not accept the driver's explanation of being worried about being late for her next bus run.

Dear passenger

1. Please do not turn your cellphones or iPad on on the bus, forcing all other passengers to listen to YOUR favourite music.

2. If you decide to pay cash, try to have some consideration. Parents, give your child $1.10 or a $2 coin, not a $20 note.

3. Our buses are not rubbish bins for McDonald's, KFC, your pie and cola, or the local sushi outlet.

4. Don't wait for the driver to ask you to vacate the seat for the elderly and disabled.

5. Fold up your pushchairs or buy a small one for bus travel.

6. If you're drunk, take a taxi.

7. There is nothing wrong with saying "good morning" to your bus driver. It might change his grumpy attitude.

Dear motorist

1. Motorway bus lanes are for buses.

2. Keep clear of clearways.

3. Don't put teddy bears on your rear seat in order to run a T2 lane undetected - it's animal abuse.

4.The indicator is usually a lever on your steering wheel. If unfamiliar, check the manual.

5. Cyclists at city traffic lights: red is on the top, green is on the bottom, just in case you're colour blind.

6. Taxi drivers: you have taxi stands, we have bus stops - very simple.

7. Friday night youth: the Auckland motorway is not Pukekohe raceway.

- NZ Herald

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