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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 21 August, 2019
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Three cyclists have died on Irish roads in the past few weeks

Is it safe out there on a bike?

The upsurge in cycling means safety has become a more pressing issue.
The upsurge in cycling means safety has become a more pressing issue.
Image: RollingNews.ie

THE DEATH OF a woman cycling to work in Dublin has put an increased focus on the dangers facing cyclists on Irish roads.

Donna Fox (30) died in the East Wall area of Dublin when she was hit by a truck on Tuesday. In the two weeks previous, two young boys also died after being hit by cars when they were cycling in Louth and Offaly.

In all, nine cyclist have been killed this year and there are calls for a greater focus on the protection of vulnerable people using Ireland’s roads.

Green Party councillor Ciarán Cuffe has for example called for lower speed limits and better road design instead of what he says can be a “culture of victim blaming”.

Editor of IrishCycle.com Cian Ginty explains that, when it comes to the dangers facing cyclists on the roads, there are different problems in rural and urban areas.

“They’re quite different in respect of that rural deaths would be about overtaking and speed while a lot of the urban deaths can be trucks or buses turning,” he says.

The interaction of bicycles and trucks in urban areas is one that is becoming particularly concerning for both cyclists and truck drivers alike.

Increased construction in cities is leading to more trucks on the roads and there are fears that an improving economy will mean space on the roads becomes more scarce.

One of the people who experienced this is Ian Noel Smyth, another Green Party campaigner who was involved in an accident when campaigning in Dublin during the general election.

Smyth says that he was hit by a cement truck that was turning left on Spencer Dock, about 100m from where Donna Fox died this week.

Smyth says that blind spots are a big problem for trucks in inner city environments and that he only avoided serious injury or worse because he made sure he was seen.

“In my case I noticed that the truck was coming in at me and I managed to get in front of the truck before it hit me,” he says.

So I got out of his blind spot at the last second. If you’re on the side and you don’t get out in front then you don’t have a chance.

Smyth says he would like to see further restrictions on the times trucks are allowed in the city centre.

In Dublin, for example, heavy goods vehicles are restricted from entering the city during the day but there are exceptions for vehicles that are delivering materials to construction sites.

Smyth says he would like to see such deliveries ended in the hours people are making their way to work in the morning. He says this is especially true right now as road layouts change to accommodate more cycle lanes.

There’s a lot of larger trucks in the city centre. They are going around pretty much any time of the day and even at night and a lot of the drivers probably aren’t familiar with the city, having not been driving around as much over the last five or six years.

“They’re not as familiar with a lot of the bicycle lanes that have been put in place,” he claims.

23/10/2015. Train Strikes Industrial Disputes There are worries that increased traffic on roads could make problems worse. Source: Sam Boal

Ginty also agrees that blindspots for trucks are a problem. He cites a recent European study which found that truck design can vary greatly in how they are minimised.

“So some trucks had zero blind spots while others had fairly large blindspots,” he explains.

“That’s difference between a driver seeing or not seeing a cyclist or pedestrian from their cab in the mirror.”

So the driver can be sitting looking at the mirror and if it’s a badly designed truck he mightn’t actually see a cyclist or a pedestrian beside the truck.

Addressing the issue of victim-blaming that Cuffe made reference to, Ginty stresses that while there’s often a desire to attribute blame on one side or the other, it’s important to wait until an inquest establishes the full facts before any conclusion is reached.

 

Despite this, he also says it’s important to note that Dublin roads in particular are relatively safe for cyclists given the upsurge in people cycling.

“It’s hard to talk about overall figures when people have lost their lives, but Dublin city has been relatively safe for cycling in the last decade,” he says.

The number of cyclists has increased since 2006 and, in the same time, the number of deaths has decreased to a level of zero to one person killed on bicycles in the Dublin City area per year.

“The goal, however should,be zero deaths, and there has to be care that more deaths and injuries aren’t caused by more construction and delivery trucks on the streets of the city.”

Read: ‘It’s bananas!’: Fury as funding pulled for Dublin cycling projects >

Read: 11-year-old boy killed after bicycle crashed with car >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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