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Streetcar Door Etiquette

There’s a cool post over on Torontoist about the TTC’s recent efforts to help drivers know that they should be stopping for open streetcar doors. Basically, the TTC is placing big ugly (in my opinion) stickers on the rear windows of streetcars.

Why don’t we do the same thing with streetcars as is done with schoolbuses? When a streetcar is stopping, have flashing lights on the back and a little stop sign swinging out from the door side of the streetcar to make sure cars stop.

If I was a conspiracy-minded guy, I’d almost think there was an anti-cycling club operating in the Toronto “blogosphere” because there are always commenters talking about cyclists like they are the ones who run over and smush people instead of cars. The very first comment on Torontoist about this post is not about the importance of cars stopping when people are boarding or disembarking from streetcars, but about how some cyclists don’t.

While I think that cyclists should stop for people getting on and off of streetcars (it’s just courteous, and I do it, only passing when I’m sure that the way is clear), I do not think that if they do go through a crowd of people getting on a streetcar, that they should be held to the same standard as drivers.

Am I advocating a double-standard? Of course!

If a car drives through a crowd of 20 people getting on a streetcar, you’ll be lucky if you don’t have 20 dead people. At the least, you’ll have quite a few dead and the rest seriously injured. This is even at fairly low speeds, due to a car being a ton of motorized steel.

If a cyclist rides through a crowd of 20 people getting on a streetcar, you may have them hit a couple people, who may get knocked down and bruised. Remember that top speed for a really fast urban cyclist negotiating traffic is BELOW the speed limits of all Toronto roads.

Using the above examples, it’s fairly obvious that a driver acting recklessly causes a lot more death and destruction than a cyclists acting recklessly (when’s the last time you heard of someone dying in a bike collision? Does a day go by that you don’t hear about a automobile fatality?).

As mentioned above, I stop for streetcar doors… and only proceed when it’s safe to do so (which is pretty quickly as my bike can go places cars can’t, and doesn’t pose a danger to anyone).

What do you do around streetcars?

  • Anonymous

    I always wait for the doors. Other cyclists will pass me and bike through the group of people. I am rarely in any hurry. If I were, I would not be behind the streetcar at all.

    I know from experience that having someone bike past you when you disembark is pretty annoying.

  • Zach

    I admit that I do not wait. I do however slow down to a walking speed. And I never get in their way. It’s their space.

  • GMD

    I stop and wait until the doors close. I understand that it wouldn’t really be dangerous to stop and proceed, but it’s just one of those little concessions I make to playing by the rules. (I also wait for the green light at T-intersections. On the other hand, I rarely come to a full stop at STOP signs, but neither do motorized vehicles.)

  • John Spragge

    I stop.

    I have three reasons:

    1) The rule exists for a good reason. I wouldn’t want to hit someone my own size on my bike, and I most certainly wouldn’t want to hit an elderly person or a child.

    2) When I stop at a streetcar stop, I stop every car behind me.

    3) If I as a cyclist plan to insist on my rights as a vehicle (as I do), I have to step up and accept the responsibilities that go with them. In my book, that means (at a minimum) that I follow all the rules of the road which promote safety.

  • Andrew

    I stop.

    I also stop when the school bus is flashing it’s lights.

  • Andrew

    Sorry to double comment, but this subject is intriguing.

    The following article references NYC DOT statistics, and shows that cyclists injure 440 pedestrians and kill 1 pedestrian annually. The data is a bit stale (1998) but injuries do happen.


    I have no idea if Toronto keeps the same type of information.

  • Tanya

    First if I see a streetcar slowing pedal furiously to try to get past it before it opens the doors. (as an aside I always take the lane when passing a streetcar as cars are often impatient to pass streetcars too and there’s not enough room for streetcar + fast moving car + bike with any kind of curb clearance)

    I always stop for streetcar doors and try to signal I am going to do this for the car drivers behind that aren’t clued in they are supposed to stop. At least 95% of the time I wait until the doors close again before proceeding. If the driver has the doors open for an inordinately long period of time and no people are embarking or disembarking I may pass slowly.

    Just because a car passing open doors is MORE dangerous it doesn’t mean that bicycles should be exempt from the rules. Bicycles are vehicles and must stop.

  • Pukegreen

    People do get killed and seriously injured by cyclists, and the minority of cyclists who flagrantly violate road rules while simultaneously railing against drivers hinders the cause for everyone. The long and short of it is that everyone: car drivers, cyclists, and yes, pedestrians, should obey the rules of the road. To customize your behaviour to certain situations is a slippery slope that leads to the sort of reckless and deadly behaviour I see every day now when I leave my home.

  • chephy

    I stop. And cyclists should stop. But it is indeed ridiculous to blame cyclists for injuring pedestrians, when the real problem is drivers. It’s the car culture: people identify with drivers and see the ones who violate the law as a few bad apples, whereas with cyclists they perceive all of them as an unruly bunch just because they see some do crazy things. Never mind that drivers commit tons of infractions as well that nobody frowns upon: when was the last time you saw a driver stop fully at a stop sign when there was no cross traffic present? When was the last time everyone obeyed the speed limit even though it was physically possible to go faster? But those infractions are forgiven and in fact encouraged by the majority of driving public (and hence the majority). But there is a barrage of complaints about the crazy cyclists.. this includes complaints about totally legal and safe cycling behaviour (“I was driving along Yonge St. and there was a cyclist IN THE MIDDLE OF THE EFFING LANE!! Wouldn’t move even after my 20-second honk, just blocking the traffic like that! And then he extends his left hand and moves into the friggin LEFT LANE and is now in the centre of it!! What does he think he is, a car?? I hate those suicidal maniacs on bikes who block traffic!”)

  • Yes, boo-urns to the idea of passing a streetcar with it’s doors open. There’s basically one legit way to do it if you’re in such a rush: go pedestrian.

    It’s amazing how hard it is to get off your seat and walk your bike, until you start doing it and realize it’s so easy. And no doubt way safer than trying to weave through a bunch of “surprise” pedestrians dashing for the ever-late streetcar.

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