The Sunlink Streetcar general manager responded Friday morning to a complaint filed about a harassing street car driver.

Steve Bethel, SunLink’s streetcar GM called Friday morning after reviewing video from the streetcar’s dashboard camera regarding the incident I posted about last night.

Bethel said he reviewed the video and it was clear that the driver was in the wrong and would be “corrected.”

“It was a legitimate claim,” he said. “We have no business being out there honking and gesturing like that.”

He also said he would contact all of the drivers to stress the importance of creating a safe environment for all users over the schedule.

“Safety before schedule is what we preach,” he said.

According to Bethel, complaints have fallen sharply since the streetcar began running nine months ago.

“I look at everyone [of the complaints] and I take them seriously.”

He said they have traveled over 160,000 miles on the tracks without any serious incidents, but there have been some close calls with both cyclists, motorists and streetcar operators being at fault.

“You have my word and my commitment to make you feel safe around us.”

A Bicycle Tucson reader posted his own account of being harassed by a driver earlier this morning:

Just had streetcar #105 almost run me over on University. A friend and myself were riding west bound on University just past Euclid when we got over to get out of the door zone. Thats when car #105 ran up behind us and and laid on his horn for us to move. I didn’t move over cause there were cars parked for the next 3 blocks and there was not room to get over safely. The driver proceded to lay on his horn and drive within inches of my back tire for 3 blocks. If I had to stop for any reason he would have ran me over he was so close. Just before Time Market the cars cleared and I got over out of his way. He yelled and pointed at me as he sped off. It was insane how extremely aggressive he was and the guy I was riding with even said I’ve never heard the streetcar make horn noises like that. WOW! Never had an interaction like that before with the Tucson Modern Streetcar what I way to shake someone up cause he couldn’t wait 3 blocks for me to get clear of cars.


6 thoughts on “Streetcar GM responds to harassment complaint”
  1. Is this complaint re: streetcar #105 going to SunLink? It certainly needs to. A time and date would be helpful for SunLink as well. If the incident appears via the onboard cameras as described here the driver ought to be re-trained, put through anger management classes or simply fired. There is no excuse for that. New cyclists or timid cyclists might have handled that differently and someone could have gotten hurt. Not to mention the image it gives the city, and the streetcar system for that matter, to anyone from out of town or someone who doesn’t come into the areas the streetcars service very often.
    I very much appreciated the response from Steve Bethel, and this whole article in general. It helps to clear up a lot of things for my husband and I.
    We have been having some very rare disagreements over streetcar etiquette. We ride a tandem and often have the street cars on 4th Avenue, especially between Time Market and the University Main Gate follow us continually bleeping their horns. To make matters more complicated we are usually hauling a large (about 20″ wide) cargo trailer behind the tandem with our dog in it. She is very visible as it is an open trailer. My husband is the captain and he continues on ignoring the not so subtle hints from the streetcar drivers while I loudly protest and have a nervous breakdown in the stoker position. My feeling up to now has been that we should pull over if there are multiple parking spaces available for us to use. My thoughts were it is selfish to slow down a vehicle with multiple passengers on it, some of whom might be on a tight schedule, when we are just two people and a dog and rarely on a schedule when we are on the bike. We have had many nice rides and even meals marred due to this ongoing debate. His position has been that he is riding safely and in the manner he is supposed to ride, following the road markers as prescribed and that the streetcar should, just like all other vehicles, only pass when there is 3 feet of clearance, which there simply is not during that stretch.
    Looking back on this after reading this article, I feel silly. I know better!! I have been a bicycle club, commuter and safety advocate since the 80’s. I, of all people, should know that staying within the prescribed guidelines is the best policy — that way there are no surprises and everyone knows what to expect from each other.
    I hope there is more general education on this subject for both the drivers and the cyclists. If I was confused imagine how many people who are not avid cyclist are totally bewildered on this topic. It is really nerve wracking, not to mention embarrassing, to be on a tiny vehicle with no protection and have a streetcar bearing down on you continously bleeping it’s horn causing more and more people to stop and stare and you. It needs to stop before someone really does get hurt.
    Thanks again for a wonderfully informative write up!

  2. They should make all of the streetcar drivers ride bikes along the route while the streetcar is nearby, that way they can get a different perspective. Now, if they can get the bus drivers to do the same thing…

  3. That’s great they were so responsive to your complaint. I’ve experienced the long honk from the streetcar drivers along University as well.
    My experience happened approaching Euclid west bound and last until Park. It was like they were trying to make us ride faster or something. The streetcar was driving as fast as we were on road bikes and dumping the horn the entire time. We had to dodge a car backing out from Frog N Firken by swerving out into the train tracks and, like your story, they didn’t stop at the stop.
    I’m not trying to race the streetcar or anything. I try to give it as much space as I can, it was lame they were honking at us like that and seemed unreasonable with how much pedestrian, cycle, and automobile they have to deal with on University Square.
    Alot of people said this would happen for a long time before the streetcar was completed. Hopefully it doesn’t take somebody getting seriously hurt or killed for the city to adequately train the people driving the modern street car.

  4. Also, I live south of downtown and commute along the street car tracks pretty much daily. Until they stop allowing cars to park along 4th avenue, or make a similar change, I’ve changed my route somewhat to minimize how much I have to ride along the streetcar tracks.
    I’ll usually take 7th Street or 9th Street now and cut through Pie Allen or Dunbar Springs neighborhood. It only adds 5 minutes or so and being away from the hustle and bustle is worth the peace of mind.

  5. Oooh, I hate the digital horn (different from the digital bell). Next time I hear it they’ll get my digital response.

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