here is my recent letter to Sun Link, with no reply after 3 days:
My name is Paul Thomas, an elite cyclist residing in Tucson, Az. With the term elite, this applies more to being the best rider possible, not emphasizing the speed in which I race or ride. With this, I am also a pedestrian and a motorist. There are some cyclists with higher awards but none are better than me when it comes to awareness of obstacles, traffic, and communicating with drivers.
On Friday August 15th, I was riding westbound on University Ave, west of Euclid. On this route there are painted SHARDS (bicycles) indicating the pathway for cyclists. These are put on the road at approximatley 100m intervals. Just to the left of the painted bikes is the railway for the Sun Link street car systems. Last Friday, at approximately noon, I encountered an extremely close collision with one of these street cars. The street car made a VERY unsafe pass, missing me by mere centimeters. I was told that the street car has video surveillance of the incident that has been reviewed. Ultimately, I would like to see the captured video. This dangerous pass occurred between 2nd Ave and 4th Ave.
After the street car passed, I caught up to Car 104 at 4th Ave. As I pulled up to the car, the driver was already out of his seat approaching his window. While I was clearly in the bike lane, I was baffled how I was being antagonized by a driver who clearly does not know the rules of the road. I am unsure of how these drivers are trained, but I cannot imagine that they are just set loose to drive these cars in an already crowded University area. I have not checked the statue, but it is my understanding that there is a 3 foot rule when passing pedestrians or cyclists. I was told by a Sunlink supervisor that arrived on the scene that the trolley drivers are instructed that they will not hit anything that lies outside of the concrete foot print that the trolley rides. I was outside of the concrete footprint and was 100% within the bike lane, and I missed getting hit by the trolley by mere millimeters. This training does not seem to fall within the 3 foot rule.
While there was not injury or collision, there will be in the very near future with the behavior of this type of driving. Maybe my “close call” incident will be a wake up call on how these drivers are doing their job. The police officer and I came to agreement that there is a design flaw in the layout of this new transportation system, tripled with the bikes and cars that use this same route.
I am unsure of the existing claims/injuries that have occurred thus far. Whatever failures of this new system since the launch date can not be compared to what is about to happen once the population rises by 30,000 now that University of Arizona students are getting back to school. I like the idea of a rail system. However, I was immediately able to tell that the planning was not well thought out. There are cars parked on the side of the road, and the bike lane is tucked in between those cars and the trolley. The bike lane actually overlaps into the overhang of the train. It seems as if the planners simply forgot to take out a tape measures when designing our new Sun Link system. There is not enough space for a train, a bike and a parked car with an open door.
The officer on the scene indicated that I did not get hurt, and I should feel lucky. He also said maybe my incident will possibly prevent someone else from getting hurt or killed. I write this message to put Sun Link on notice that injury/death is right around the corner with this flawed design and dangerous driving behaviours by its employees. Unfortunately, change never really happens until there is a death or major catastrophe.
I am unsure of the solution. Maybe change the bike route. Possibly no street parking on University/4th Ave. It is a mathematical equation, and there is simply not enough room on the road for these 3 types of transportation. If there are cars parked on both sides of the street with the drivers side doors open, 2 bikes riding next to each other on both sides (which is legal) and 2 trains, the math tells us that someone did not use their measuring stick before construction, and it is the bike riders that will face bodily harm/death.
Again, I pride myself on educating commuters, bike racers and any other types of two wheeled riders on road safety. Skills and awareness can minimize 90% of all accidents. However, only luck can save one from the incident that I encountered last Friday.
I surely hope that this email is taken as a tool to better the safety of all motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and Sun Link, and not a disgruntled cyclist. The only effort that can be done immediately is to train the trolley drivers to follow the rules of the road given the seemingly poorly designed system and remember the average person on two wheels does not have the skills to dance around moving cars and trains.
I would like to be contacted to verify that there is action being taken on this incident. I would also like to see what I have to in order to view the video that was taken from street car 104.
I look forward to you response.