I consider myself a confident and skilled bike rider, but when the streetcar passed me on Fourth Avenue, it was very uncomfortable and a violation of the law.
Here’s what happened: On Monday morning, I was returning from the courthouse after checking court records for the story I posted on Tuesday. I was riding a little folding bike I use for hopping around the downtown area.
The streetcar was stopped on Fourth Avenue just north of Ninth Street heading north.
At that spot, there is no parking and it is easy to go around the streetcar, which I did because I wanted to see what would happen when it started moving again.
I was positioned where the sharrows indicate cyclists should ride to be protected from the door zone.
The streetcar began to roll and quickly caught up with me and began to pass me.
It was frightening when it did. There was about a foot between me and the streetcar and me. Had I been riding my bakfiets, it would have been even closer.
Legally, the streetcar should not have passed me because it could not provide me the three feet of space required by law.
Several years ago at a Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting I asked representatives from the streetcar about the narrowness of Fourth Avenue and whether the streetcar would have to obey traffic laws including giving cyclists three feet of space.
The members of the streetcar team said the streetcars would be treated like vehicles and have to obey the rules of the road. When pressed they said that if there was not three feet of space the driver would have to follow the cyclist and wait for a spot where there was three feet to pass.
I am waiting for a return phone call about what the streetcar’s training and safety staff have to say about the driver passing me with less than three feet of clearance.
This driver and I leapfrogged the whole way up Fourth Avenue and each time the streetcar passed, it was too close and too scary.
It’s hard to remember when the streetcar is passing you that it is only going to go straight on not swerve into you. Once that sinks in it starts to feel a little better.
It wasn’t as bad when the driver passed me once and for all on University Boulevard. There was more room and fewer cars parked there.
It’s concerning to think about cyclists who are less confident and get buzzed by a streetcar. How will they react? Hug the parked cars putting themselves at a risk for being doored? Fall? Quit riding?
I honestly didn’t think being passed by the streetcar would be a big deal, but I was wrong.
Have you been passed by the streetcar? If so where and how did it feel?