Cycling fines: What you need to know from August 1

On-the-spot fines for traffic offences while cycling are due to be in place by August 1, here’s what you need to know and maybe more:

What’s included as finable offences?

The full list of offences covered by the fines from August 1 are:

  1. Cyclist driving a pedal cycle without reasonable consideration.
  2. No front lamp or rear lamp lit during lighting-up hours on a pedal cycle.
  3. Cyclist proceeding into a pedestrianised street or area.
  4. Cyclist proceeding past traffic lights when the red lamp is illuminated.
  5. Cyclist proceeding past cycle traffic lights when red lamp is lit.
  6. Cyclist failing to stop for a School Warden sign.
  7. Cyclist proceeding beyond a stop line, barrier or half barrier at a railway level crossing, swing bridge or lifting bridge, when the red lamps are flashing

How will the fines work?

While the system of fines is commonly referred to as “on-the-spot” fines, the fines are actually issued in the post. When the Gardai (the police in the Republic of Ireland) catch suspected offenders, they will take their details and then send the fine in the post. The fines are officially known as ‘fixed charge notices’.

Will this work without a registration or licensing system for bicycles?

Yes, it generally works in other countries, none of which have mandatory bicycle registration or user licensing. If a garda officer suspects that a suspect is being untruthful about their name or address, they already have powers to confiscate a suspect’s bicycle.

Will Gardai bother stopping people on bicycles?

A policing blitz is planned August 1 and, going by Irish and international standards, such a blitz is likely to be repeated from time to time in the coming months and years. After that, there will — as with anything — be a level of discretion left up to individual garda. Generally, the new system will make it a lot easier for Gardai to fine somebody on a bicycle (which will be less time consuming than the current process of bringing them to a district court).

How much will the fines cost?

The basic fine will be €40. If a fine is unpaid in 26 days the fine amount increases to €60, and if that is unpaid within 56 days the person will be summons to a district court where they could be liable for a court fine of up to €2,000.

Can you challenge a fine?

Yes, you will be able to challenge a fine at district court level, where a judge will decide if the fine was correctly given. However, be warned that it seems that a judge will be able to apply a fine of up to €2,000 and you could end up with a conviction. The on-the-spot fines allows people to escape the conviction by paying up.

Why change the law for people on bicycles?

The law is only being changed to bring in the fines. All of what is covered is already against the law and subjects to court fines. The new system of on-the-spot fines will partly replace the current system of summons to court when bicycle users are often subject to fines of €80-€300 or more. Over 3,200 people were fined for cycling offences in a ten year period and in 2013 over 350 people brought to court for cycling by red lights in Dublin alone.

The current system is seen as a waste of court and garda time and resources. It is also seen as unfair to bicycle users who are caught breaking the law and who, unlike motorists, have no option of paying up rather than going to court.

What does “driving a pedal cycle without reasonable consideration” mean?

A pedal cycle is a bicycle. Cycling is considered as a type of ‘driving’ under much of Irish law. But the tricky part is “without reasonable consideration”. If you strip away the legal definitions, it’s basicly cycling without reasonable consideration. But what exactly is that?

There’s a limited amount of court reports available online referring to the offence of cycling without reasonable consideration, but the offence seems to generally relate to when more than one potentially action without reasonable consideration is carried out. For example: Last month a man from Terenure was reportedly found to be cycling without reasonable consideration after he cycled past a red light, without looking left or right, and whilst taking on a phone. In Galway in 2008 another man was convicted under this offence for cycling the wrong way off the roundabout and hitting a taxi.

A new case, reported on in the Irish Examiner this month, shows how a man was fined €200 in court for cycling on a footpath and running into the side of a car which was exiting a private driveway. He was described as a serial road traffic offender, with a string of offences which are “not of a very serious nature”.

Is holding a mobile phone while cycling covered?

The minister for transport Paschal Donohoe thinks the “without reasonable consideration” fine could extend as far as using a mobile phone. When asked by ‏@duburb “Will using a mobile phone while cycling carry a fine? As shown in that photo [which the minister was holding],” the minister replied: “yes it will – under cycling without consideration to others”.

While we are not lawyers, it seems that holding a mobile phone alone may not fit the ‘without reasonable consideration’ definition, but it would be covered if that happens along with the a person not looking where they are going or where they break another law at the same time. If the minister wants to outright ban holding a phone while cycling, he should legislate for such.

What about when the traffic light sensor does not detect my bicycle?

Many traffic lights do not detect bicycles. Usually because the position or setup of the detection loops or sensors which often control the traffic lights when they are not on timers. For example, the detection loops or sensors in many locations are not in or directed at the cycle lane or side of the road where people usually cycle. Basicly: The loops and sensors are designed to detect cars, buses and trucks, not bicycles.

Gardai could use discretion, however, campaigners who have met with senior officers said that they were told that it is “not a policing issue”. Most US states seem to allow people to proceed with caution after a certain amount of time, but there is no such legal exception here.

Why isn’t cycling on footpaths covered?

It was in a draft list of fines to be included but the minister for transport Paschal Donohoe said he removed cycling on footpaths from a list because he said that he did not want to stop parents from cycling on footpaths with children or others who were doing so out of fear while not endangering pedestrians. However, the minister said that reckless cycling on footpaths would be covered by the fine for cycling “without reasonable consideration”.

Why isn’t cycling along Luas tracks covered?

While there are sections of Luas tram tracks which you are allowed to cycle on, it is against the law to cycle on tram-only lanes in Dublin. This, again, was on the original list of fines but did not make the final cut. However cycling along tracks may still be subject to court fines or you get a on-the-spot fine under the “without reasonable consideration” offence, more so because cycling along the Luas tracks often requires breaking more than one law (ie running red lights).

Can I go crazy between now and August 1? 

While Gardai have said that they will be warning lawbreakers on bicycles between now and the introduction of on-the-spot fines on August 1, getting summoned to court is still a possibility.

Is this a case of somebody who does not cycle thinking fines are a good idea?

The minister for transport cycles and it seemed to be his main form of commuting transport before he became a minister, but while he was a TD. Many others who cycle have also welcomed the principal of the fines.

A reader asks: “Will a cyclist get fined if he/she cycles past stopped traffic to the head of the traffic lights (when there is no cycle lane)?”

We can’t say for sure. Passing a stop line or an advanced stop line/box is technically breaking the law, so you could get a fine.

In the UK, a cyclist was fined when police officers caught him going beyond an advance stop line. He pleaded not guilt and mounted a defence based on the fact that the advance stop box was blocked by a motorist. After the case had reached court, on the request of the defence, the judge in the case gave the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) time to reconsider. The CPS ended up dropping the case because of “insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of a conviction” — in other words, on review they came to the conclusion that their case against the cyclist had a low chance of succeeding.

While UK precedent is accepted in Irish courts, in this case it may not amount any type of usable precedent (it is clearly not judicial precedent as the judge did not rule). It might also be a weaker defence in cases where there is no advanced stop line/box at a junction. So, where there is no cycle lane or advanced stop box, it may be advisable to stay behind other traffic at junction.

What’s the difference between offence number 4 and 5?

The first “Cyclist proceeding past traffic lights when the red lamp is illuminated” relates to normal traffic lights, while “Cyclist proceeding past cycle traffic lights when red lamp is lit” relates to bicycle traffic lights. Such bicycle traffic lights are not currently very common in Ireland but can be found on a number of segregated cycle routes around Ireland and at a small number of junctions (with and without segregated cycle paths) in Dublin .

DISCLAIMER: We are not lawyers and none of the above is legal advice.

EDITS: This article has been edited three times; the first edit was adding details of a new court case relating to “driving a pedal cycle without reasonable consideration”; the second edit was to respond to a reader’s question on cycling just past the red light; the third edit was to make clear what’s the difference between the offences listed as 4 and 5.

12 Comments

  1. Congratulations on a comprehensive run down of the proposed fines and the background.
    I think it is worth pointing out that Cyclist.ie had a number of interactions with staff of the Department prior to their introduction. Cyclist.ie particularly argued against the introduction of Fines for footpath cycling and ‘tram lane’ cycling as follows:
    ‘cycling on footpaths can be harmless​, and is often done for safety reasons, due, for instance, to poor cycling infrastructure or heavy traffic,​ with no danger to other users, but ​it ​can ​undoubtedly ​also be aggressive. ​Cycling along tram routes can often be the safest choice by cyclists, as they tend to be on quietly trafficked streets with little likelihood of interference by motorised traffic.’
    We in Cyclist.ie/Dublin Cycling Campaign would feel that our interactions with Dept officials made a difference in reducing the number of offences from a proposed 15 to a final 7! The role of cycling campaigners cannot be understimated!

  2. They should Inforce the law about cars parking in cycle lanes every day I have to move out of the cycle lane to go around cars twice I was nearly knocked off my bike over this

  3. Ben….add your bit to http://freethecyclelanes.vool.ie/ – lots of images here to drive the point home

  4. what about cycling on public foot paths

  5. @ Mel — It’s not covered unless it’s reckless cycling on footpaths.

  6. On traffic light sensor loops: Wouldn’t they be considered defective signals (at least for your vehicle) so could be legally disregarded as long as you proceed with caution?

    If you approach defective traffic lights while driving a car you don’t just sit indefinitely waiting for them to begin operating correctly you proceed past them with caution as they are defective.

  7. @ Joe — that sounds reasonable, but I’m unsure if it’s allowable by law or case law (I’m guessing it would be in the latter)?

  8. Will a cyclist get fined if he/she cycles past stopped traffic to the head of the traffic lights (when there is no cycle lane)? Also, are cyclists legally required to use cycle lanes if provided?

  9. What about the cyclists who cycle 2 &3 side by side on back roads having a chat and then shake their fist at you or stick their finger up at you when you eventually get to go around them. They should be fined and it should be illegal !! Or arrows and numbers spray painted all over our roads, do they actually get permission for this and if yes who grants the permissions?

  10. Eoin, I think you can filter to the head of traffic, but you can’t cross the stop line unless there’s a bike box/ASL there. Cyclists are no longer required to use cycle facilities, apart from in pedestrianised zones and in contraflows.

    Pamela, three-abreast is illegal, two-abreast not. Someone else can answer your other questions, if that is what they really are.

  11. @Pamela

    It’s funny how you paint a picture of cyclists who are ready to shake fists or stick up fingers at you for no reason at all. In my experience the only time people on bikes are moved to such gestures towards people driving motor vehicles is when their lives have been placed at risk by aggressive or impatient driving. Perhaps you drive too close to these cyclists while waiting to pass or squeeze past when unsafe to do so or pass too close and too fast. There are many possibilities but the most unlikely is that you behave in a manner which respects their safety and they simply decide to attack you with gestures. Perhaps you feel you do treat them safely but they disagree; in such a case I would recommend you listen to their feelings as they are the ones who are best placed to make such a judgement.

    As has been said 2 abreast is legal. 3 abreast is not (unless one cyclist is overtaking afaik) but the reason it is done is actually (believe it or not) for everybody’s safety. It is safer for a passing driver to pass a shorter group than a longer one, particularly on country roads. I would prefer to have to pass a group of a dozen bikes cycling 3 abreast and 4 long than single file and 12 long. Remember you need to give the cycles proper clearance so this means leaving the lane anyway so single file, 2 abreast or 3 abreast makes no difference except, to be frank, when the driver of the passing car wishes to squeeze by without leaving the lane which is simply dangerous and may result in certain gestures from people who feel they have been put in danger. An unfortunate reaction perhaps but a natural one given such circumstances.

  12. NO to both questions!

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