A cyclist passes the streetcar on the right at a stop.
A cyclist passes the streetcar on the right at a stop.

A SunLink streetcar operator has been disciplined for passing a cyclist too closely on University Boulevard last month.

City of Tucson transportation director transit administrator Jeremy Papuga said a streetcar driver passed a cyclist with less than the required three feet of space on University Boulevard heading west toward Fourth Avenue on Aug. 15 around noon.

Following a review of the incident, Papuga said the driver was disciplined and re-trained about the rules related to passing cyclists before being allowed to return to driving duties.

In a comment posted on Bicycle Tucson, Paul Thomas, the cyclist involved in the incident, said the streetcar was within inches of him while riding west on University Boulevard.


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“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,” Thomas wrote.

Streetcar drivers are not bound by Arizona law to provide three feet of room when passing a cyclist because there is an exemption for vehicles that use rails. However SunLink’s own rules require drivers to provide three feet.

According to a police report, Thomas caught up to the streetcar after the operator passed him and stood on the tracks preventing the streetcar from moving until the police arrived.

The police officer who responded did not cite the streetcar driver. A SunLink manager also responded to the incident and told the officer they would review the incident to determine if the driver violated SunLink rules.

Papuga said after the review process was completed the driver was disciplined.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy,” Papuga said. ” [The disciplinary action] illustrated how serious the violation is to us.”

Thomas was uninjured, but was concerned about other cyclists.

“While there was not injury or collision, there will be in the very near future with the behavior of this type of driving,” he wrote. “Maybe my ‘close call’ incident will be a wake up call on how these drivers are doing their job.”

Papuga said a service bulletin was sent to all the streetcar operators reiterating their three-foot rule following the incident.

Papuga said since the start of the paid riding started in July, Thomas’ incident has been the only complaint made about a streetcar passing too closely. However he said cyclists can report any unsafe incidents by emailing sunlinkstreetcarcomments@tucsonaz.gov.


2 thoughts on “Streetcar driver disciplined for passing bicyclist too closely”
  1. Did the streetcar operator sneak up and pass the bicycle without warning, or did the bicycle “hog” the limited space? Maybe Paul Thompson rode too close to the streetcar and not the streetcar passing him too closely. If their was a car parked to far from the curb and extending into the bicycle lane, could Paul Thompson pause at the limited space, pulled into a empty parking space or the space between two parked cars?  No vehicle should pass a slower bicycle to closely. A streetcar can not move away from the bicycle as it passes. The space is tight but not to tight.  If there is not room for a streetcar to safely pass a bicycle they should not share the street with the streetcar or be required to pull over for safety. Innless the streetcar operator passed the bicycle without warning the bicycle rider not the streetcar operator should be the one disciplined.

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