Video captures Santa Rosa City Councilman Gary Wysocky swearing at bus driver
Five days before he was censured for what his colleagues on Santa Rosa’s City Council called abusive behavior toward staff, Councilman Gary Wysocky was caught on video shouting obscenities at a city bus driver who the councilman says almost ran him over.
The latest revelation of less than diplomatic language being used by city leaders comes to light two weeks after Wysocky took Councilman Jake Ours to task for swearing from the dais during a public council meeting.
The incident was captured on video from cameras mounted on a paratransit bus as it traveled south on Brookwood Avenue shortly after 1 p.m. June 5. Paratransit buses are small buses that offer dial-a-ride services to disabled people.
The city released the videos this week in response to a Public Records Act request by The Press Democrat. The videos were preserved after witnesses reported the exchange to city officials, triggering a personnel investigation of Wysocky that apparently remained dormant for months.
The forward-facing video shows the bus coming up on a cyclist riding in the bicycle lane on Brookwood Avenue as it crosses Santa Rosa Creek near police headquarters.
The rider is Wysocky, who has used a bicycle, in this case a mountain bike, as his primary mode of transportation for years.
The bus is being driven by an unidentified male driver and is carrying two passengers. After the bus crosses the bridge over Santa Rosa Creek, it passes Wysocky shortly after he enters an area where the bike lane striping ends.
The approximately 100-foot-long area is a transition zone meant to allow vehicles to cross into the right-hand turn lane and the bicyclists to merge left into the bike lane at the intersection of Sonoma Avenue, explained city traffic engineer Rob Sprinkle.
In some communities, such zones are marked with dotted lines to show where the bicycle lane continues. In others, such as Windsor and Rohnert Park, they are painted bright colors to warn drivers to be aware bicyclists may be crossing the vehicle travel lane. There are no such markings at the intersection of Brookwood and Sonoma, but the city is experimenting with them in other intersections, Sprinkle said.
The videos show the bus passing Wysocky, crossing in front of him, entering the turn lane, and slowing to a stop at the light.
A few seconds later, Wysocky can be seen pulling up along the left side of the bus in the bicycle lane, which at that point is clearly marked between the turning lane and center travel lane. Wysocky stops at the light and addresses the bus driver.
“Could you move over a bit later?” Wysocky says calmly. “I don’t know if you realize how close you were to me.”
The driver snaps back, “Do you realize that you’re over the white line on the …”
The videos, which are recorded from several angles, appear to show Wysocky remaining near the left edge but within the marked sections of the bike lane at all times.
Wysocky then raises his voice, points to his chest and says “It’s my f---ing life, dude!”
“I know that,” the driver replies. “So I think you oughtta stay inside the line.”
After the light turns green Wysocky begins pedaling into the intersection, yelling over his shoulder, “You oughtta shut the f--- up!”
The driver, making a right turn onto Sonoma Avenue, laughs. A passenger asks “Was he joking around?”
“No, he was serious,” the driver responds.
The unnamed bus driver is not a city employee. He works for a Dallas-based company called MV Transportation, which has operated the city’s paratransit bus program since 2002. The company provides door-to-door service for disabled riders in 11 city-owned buses and two minivans.
Local MV Transportation officials referred questions to the corporate office, which had no comment.
Wysocky said he had no idea the city had received a complaint until he was alerted recently to the Public Records Act request. He said his reaction was understandable, given the close call with the bus and the way the driver responded.
“I got buzzed by a bus. I approached the driver respectfully, and he dumps on me,” Wysocky said. “Do I wish I hadn’t used profanity? Yeah. But I almost got hit by a bus!”
City Manager Sean McGlynn said he viewed the tape recently and felt the exchange did not represent “the best customer service response” from the driver.
“It doesn’t matter who the member of the public is,” McGlynn said. “You handle them professionally in the exchange.”
Contract bus drivers are held to the same public service standards the CityBus employees who drive the city’s larger buses and are trained to “de-escalate” conflicts, said Anita Winkler, deputy director of transit.