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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 19 September, 2019
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Drivers who put cyclists at risk to be targeted, but it won't be mandatory to wear high-vis while on your bike

Government plans to build on existing rules that govern cycling and driving rules.

Image: Shutterstock/John And Penny

CYCLISTS GROUPS WERE left upset over Christmas after the Department of Transport  confirmed a proposed new law that would have set a minimum passing distance for drivers overtaking cyclists has been abandoned. 

The confirmation should not have been a surprise, as Transport Minister Shane Ross admitted during the summertime that he was facing “difficulties” in introducing the new law after the Attorney General raised concerns. 

In February last year, the minister said the new measures were needed as he had become increasingly concerned about the rise in cyclist fatalities on Irish roads.

In 2017, there were 15 cyclists killed, which was a 50% increase on 2016.

The new law was set to require drivers to allow one metre when passing cyclists on roads with a speed limit under 50 km/h and 1.5 metre on roads with a limit of 50km/h or above.

Dangerous overtaking of cyclists

In order to appease the cyclist lobby, Ross said a new law would be brought in which will make dangerous overtaking, specifically of a cyclist, an offence. However, the Green Party has criticised the minister for what it dubbed a u-turn on the issue. 

The department said in a statement that it is looking for “alternatives” to the proposed legislation, “which would be legally more robust, but still deliver the same results of improving the safety of cyclists on our roads”.

The current legislation regarding overtaking is set out in article 10 of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations, 1997 which states that a driver shall not overtake, or attempt to overtake, if to do so would endanger, or cause inconvenience to, any other person. 

The penalty for this offence is a fine of €80.

The department is proposing to build on the existing legislation in relation to dangerous overtaking.

“This will, in particular, specifically target those drivers who put cyclists at risk,” said a department spokesperson.

With the focus on cyclists, and with the dangers cycling can present, particularly in the built-up cities such as Dublin, just what are the rules for governing cycling and what new laws or regulations might be on the cards to ensure it is safe for people to get on a bike. 

Wearing reflective clothing will not be set in law 

One measure that has been ruled out by government is making it an offence not to wear reflective clothing while cycling. 

Ross said to create a statutory obligation on the wearing of reflective clothing would entail making it a criminal offence under Road Traffic legislation for any person guilty of not wearing high visibility clothing. A fixed charge notice or summonsed to court would have to be put in place for such offences.

“I believe that the wearing of such clothing is best pursued by way of educational and publicity campaigns run by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) rather than by pursuing a punitive approach to the issue,” said Ross. 

He said the RSA, which has responsibility for the promotion of road safety awareness, advertising and the dissemination of road safety information, has already undertaken a number of campaigns to promote awareness among pedestrians and cyclists of the need for visibility on our roads.

“A number of measures have also been included in the Road Safety Strategy 2013 – 2020 aimed at increasing the wearing of high visibility clothing among pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. The Rules of the Road also include a strong recommendation supporting the wearing of light, and preferably high-visibility, clothing,” said Ross. 

There are a number of rules for cyclists and drivers relating to cycling already in existence. 

The Road Traffic Acts 1961-2014 set out the main provisions for motoring and legislate for bicycles. There is also secondary legislation which regulates the behaviour of motorists and cyclists.

Existing rules 

The legislation, clearly outlined on the Citizens Information website, states that under the Road Traffic (Lighting of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 a bike being ridden in a public place during lighting-up hours must be equipped with a rear red reflector, and with front and rear lights that can be seen from a reasonable distance. The law also states that the front light must be white or yellow, while the rear light must be red. Using flashing lights on your bike is actually illegal.

The website goes on to states that under the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 a bicycle used in a public place “must be fitted with a bell capable of being heard at a reasonable distance. It must also be equipped with brakes, one for the front wheel and another for the rear wheel”.

Another aspect of the law that relates to cycling, is Section 20 of the Road Traffic Act 1961. It states if a garda has reasonable grounds for believing that the bicycle has a dangerous defect, the garda may instruct you not to ride the bike in a public space until it is fixed.

No cycling on the footpath 

When cycling you must obey the rules set out in the Road Traffic Acts and Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997-2014 which sets out such rules that make it an offence to cycle on a footpath unless you are entering or exiting a property and sets out that cyclists must obey the rules applying to traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, zebra crossings and cycle traffic lights. Cyclists must also respect stop signs and yield right of way at yield signs.

Gardaí can also arrest you without a warrant if you are riding a bike while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and if there are reasonable grounds for believing that you are using the bike without the owner’s consent.

In 2015, new cycling offences were introduced which incur a fixed charge offence of €40.

These cycling offences include:

  • No front or rear light during lighting-up hours
  • Riding a bicycle without reasonable consideration
  • Failing to stop for a school warden sign
  • Failing to stop at traffic lights when the red lamp is lit
  • Failing to stop at cycle traffic lights when the red lamp is lit
  • Failing to stop at a stop line, barrier or half barrier at a railway level crossing, swing bridge or lifting bridge, when the red lamps are flashing.
  • Cycling in a pedestrianised street or area

Drivers and rules of the road

In terms of safety measures that drivers must consider, the Rules of the Road give guidance to drivers, but there has been some criticism by cyclist bobby groups that they are not necessarily on a legal footing. 
Cyclist.ie, a group campaigning for cyclist safety, made a submission to the department demanding that drivers should allow at least 1.5 metre gap when overtaking and where there is insufficient room they should not overtake (this is the law that has since been ruled out).

It also called for the Rules of the Road to be updated to remind drivers that cyclists will leave a gap of one metre when passing parked cars, as they are in fear of being hit by door opening.

They also want the law changed to allow cyclists to make a left turn when the traffic lights are red, but giving way to pedestrians who are using a ‘green-man’ phase on the left junction-arm. Cyclist.ie states that this is the case in many European countries. It also wants contraflow cycling to be allowed in one-way streets with low volumes of traffic.

 

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