A Toronto Police traffic officer says he wants an Ontario highway law to be re-vamped to allow more space for stopped streetcars.
“People need to just stay behind the streetcar when their doors are open and just stay there until the doors are closed. The streetcars are red and white so treat them like a stop sign,” Const. Hugh Smith of Traffic Services said on Thursday.
Currently, Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act says a vehicle must stop exactly two metres behind any open door on a streetcar until passengers exiting or entering the streetcar have either safely boarded or made it to the side of the street.
Offenders can be dinged up to $109 for ignoring the act.
“People don’t really understand two metres, it’s unclear, they often think it’s two feet and don’t stop the proper distance because they don’t know what two metres looks like,” Const. Smith said.
Smith says he’s gotten more passionate about his recommendation after mayor Rob Ford was allegedly involved in a downtown kerfuffle with a streetcar earlier this week.
Ford said that although he did drive past the streetcar’s back doors, he stopped his car behind the open front doors. He said the back doors were closed the entire time.
On Tuesday, Ford denied accusations by Bob Kinnear, head of the union representing TTC workers, that he passed the streetcar’s open front doors.
“I didn’t drive by the streetcar doors,” Ford said.
“I went past the back door, the front doors were open, the driver came out and accosted me,” he added.
Const. Smith says that if the archaic law were re-written, the issue wouldn’t have happened in the first place.
“The streetcars these laws were designed for aren’t the streetcars we have today. Most of these laws were created back when the streetcars were electric. They were smaller then, and people only got on through the front doors, making stopping for them more straightforward,” he said.
Const. Smith said the issue is a growing concern and he hopes vehicles will stay behind the stopped streetcars entirely.
“How much time do you gain moving up to the front of the streetcar, really? Only five or 10 metres. It’s not worth it to put a pedestrian’s life at risk,” he said.