27 April 2023

'Incredibly foolish' TikTok trend of 'bus surfing' hits Canberra

| James Coleman
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bus surfing

Police say bus surfers “run the risk of falling onto the road and then possibly being run over by other vehicles.” Image: Screenshot.

Police have condemned a social media trend after several teens were caught on camera “clinging” to the back of Canberra buses.

‘Bus surfing’ involves hitching a free ride on a bus without the driver’s knowledge, either by getting a foothold on the back or climbing onto the roof. Many are recording their efforts for likes on social media.

Bus surfing

Bus surfing caught on camera in Kaleen. Photo: Canberra Notice Board Group, Facebook.

One Canberra resident witnessed three teens on the back of a green and white ACTION bus driving along Maribyrnong Avenue in Kaleen last week.

“The bus driver had no idea he had three hitchhikers until we honked and flashed our lights at him getting him to stop,” the resident shared to the Canberra Notice Board Group on Facebook on 18 April.

“At this point, the boys went running.”

Two boys were subsequently captured on video on the back of an old orange and blue ACTION bus as it drove along Clarrie Hermes Drive near Casey. In footage supplied to ABC Canberra, the boys are seen jumping off mid-roundabout and narrowly avoiding traffic as they run for the kerb.

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Despite reactions of “natural selection” and “used to do the same thing except on the skateboard” from people online, authorities don’t hold back on the danger.

Transport Canberra declined to comment on whether its bus drivers have been made aware of the trend and how best to deal with it, instead directing all enquiries to ACT Policing.

TikTok warning

Tiktok now gives users a warning when searching for bus-surfing videos. Photo: Screenshot.

ACT Policing says they are aware of ‘bus surfing’ and describe it as “incredibly foolish and likely to lead to serious injuries”.

“A person runs the risk of falling onto the road and then possibly being run over by other vehicles,” an ACT Policing spokesperson told Region.

“Falling at any speed faster than walking is likely to lead to significant injuries. A cheap thrill and some social media likes are not worth a life potentially lost due to unnecessary, dangerous behaviour.”

Authorities the world over have confronted the same problem trend for years, to the point TikTok itself has clamped down on it and removed the majority of associated videos from their platform and shared a warning message when ‘bus surfing’ is searched for in the app.

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It reads: “Your safety matters. Some online challenges can be dangerous, disturbing, or even fabricated. Learn how to recognise harmful challenges so you can protect your health and well-being.”

ACT Road Policing Inspector Paul Hutcheson told ABC Canberra last week there could also be legal ramifications for the action. He said people who posted videos of themselves participating in dangerous trends that included illegal activity could end up facing fines or even court.

“The media posts are sometimes people who observed it, so obviously, that’s not a way to track down people,” he said.

“But we have done it for things like hooning behaviours, where people have put social media posts up and we’ve been able to identify them and give them either infringement notices or court appearances.”

Those who witness bus surfing should contact ACT Policing on 131 444.

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