Zebra crossings increasingly used on cycle routes, but without warning cyclists must dismount

— Cycling along zebra crossings to cross roads is an offence
— Criminal and civil liability issues could arise in the event of a collision

Zebra crossing are used as the only crossing option on a number of recently installed and planned cycling routes, but designers have forgotten a key element: cyclists dismount signs.

Zebra crossings are a type of signalised pedestrian crossings which people on bicycles are not legally allowed to use, the Department of Transport confirmed last week in an email reply to this website.Despite this, the National Transport Authority (NTA) has promoted and funded the design of zebra crossings on cycle routes, mainly it seems at roundabouts. The NTA, however, said that it is “incumbent on designers to ensure that correct signage is in place”.

Sara Morris, a spokeswoman for the NTA said in a statement: “The National Cycle Manual (NCM) is a principles-based approach to the development of a cycle-friendly street and road environment. In the range of crossing types available to a designer, a zebra crossing offers an efficient solution that: Minimises delay for users crossing the road and traffic on the road; is lower cost than full signalisation and easier to maintain; Reduces traffic noise; and is legible and unambiguous to all road users. As such, it often represents the optimal multi-modal sustainable solution for vulnerable road users to cross the road.”

IMAGE: The main 3D image and the above 2D image show the National Cycle Manual design for “Fully Segregated Roundabouts” (cyclemanual.ie / NTA)

IMAGE: The main 3D image and the above 2D image show the National Cycle Manual design for “Fully Segregated Roundabouts” (cyclemanual.ie / NTA)

While the NTA statement says the design is “legible and unambiguous to all road users”, the NTA’s National Cycle Manual — which can be viewed at cyclemanual.ie — only states “Cyclists are required to stop”, not that they must dismount as the Department of Transport has confirmed.

“The Department is aware of the designs included in the Cycle Manual published by the National Transport Authority. With regard to the design included for zebra crossings at roundabouts nothing in the legislation has changed and cyclists are required to dismount before crossing at a zebra crossing,” said Monica Quinn, a spokeswoman at the Department of Transport.

We asked if guiding cyclists into zebra crossing without cyclists dismount signs was misleading and promoting illegal use of zebra crossings — but despite the NTA promoting this usual design, they said designers should make sure they use the correct signs and all road users must be aware of their responsibilities.

The NTA said: “The National Cycle Manual does not cover specific detail that is already dealt with under other standards (e.g. pavement design mixes, drainage capacity requirements, ducting, traffic light specifications, etc.).  The NTA has not provided any guidance on signage requirements and road user information in the NCM and it is incumbent on designers to ensure that correct signage is in place.  Notwithstanding this, all road users are required to behave with due care and attention for other users, and to be aware of their responsibilities as road users.”

On not following the standard modern Dutch cycling priority roundabouts, the NTA claimed that this is not possible under current Irish law.

It said: “Whilst the NCM benefitted from oversight by a specialist review group including members from Denmark and The Netherlands, the specific provisions of Irish road traffic law and the judicial system, the rules regarding Right of Way (see e.g. Section 1.8 of the NCM), and Irish traffic policy would preclude the promotion wholesale of design solutions from other jurisdictions.”

On the issue of cycling friendly law changes, Department of Transport added: “Separately a number of changes to our legislation with regard to cycling are being considered as part of the mid-term review of the National Cycle Policy Framework. These changes are being discussed internally by the Sustainable Transport Division and the Road Safety Division (who have primary responsibility for implementing change to the legislation) and with the National Transport Authority.”

Last week we asked a number of councils who have used the zebra crossing design for detailed comment on this issue — we are awaiting reply from some and are in the process of contacting others.

12 Comments

  1. As long as I’m advising governmental bodies and private organizations the ‘legal excuse’ is persistently used as a poor and idle excuse and always misused concerning cycling infrastructure, especially by legal advisers / officials who don’t cycle themselves.

    As we all know legal changes / confirmations / penalties / etc always come after our changes in real life in public space; that’s called progress. We need different and brave legal advisors to support (!) the cyclists and the road engineers / designers, not to block their practice.

    The ‘room’ for cycling improvements within the acting Irish traffic laws is simply limiting and blocking safe and convenient cycling space on roads, streets, junctions and crossings. Yes, it precludes, as the NTA-quote above says.

    The image included in this post simply is a bad design both for pedestrians and cyclists, in some way it’s a bad reshape of good and safe Dutch RA-practice, unfortunately.

    PS: the image should be mirrored; slip of the pen?

    André P.

  2. Just so very, very dumb… Cyclists as third-class citizens again. This joins the wonderful practice of sticking an inappropriate yield marking on a cycle path every time it meets a driveway / bus stop / entrance / parking space / minor road.

    When cyclists either inevitably ignore the cycle path and use the road, or cycle on the zebra crossings, drivers and peds will have further reason to complain about cyclists.

    BTW Adre is right – image is mirrored :-)

    Paul

  3. “It said: “Whilst the NCM benefitted from oversight by a specialist review group including members from Denmark and The Netherlands, the specific provisions of Irish road traffic law and the judicial system, the rules regarding Right of Way (see e.g. Section 1.8 of the NCM), and Irish traffic policy would preclude the promotion wholesale of design solutions from other jurisdictions.””

    I’ve just read section 1.8 on the cyclemanual.ie site, and I don’t get it? Is there more manual somewhere else? I don’t get how that precludes parallel bike and pedestrian crossing lanes.

  4. **On not following the standard modern Dutch cycling priority roundabouts, the NTA claimed that this is not possible under current Irish law.**

    Could the NTA explicitly highlight exactly where in Irish law this is outlined? Or give the legal judgement that supports this conclusion.

    **Whilst the NCM benefitted from oversight by a specialist review group including members from Denmark and The Netherlands, the specific provisions of Irish road traffic law and the judicial system, the rules regarding Right of Way (see e.g. Section 1.8 of the NCM), and Irish traffic policy would preclude the promotion wholesale of design solutions from other jurisdictions.**

    Section 1.8 of the national cycle manual states:
    All road users, including emergency vehicles and cyclists alike, are expected to proceed with due care and consideration for other road users in all cases, irrespective of who has right of way.

    For example:
    1. At priority junctions, all main road traffic may generally expect traffic turning on or off the main road to yield. This expectation is tempered by the obligation to exercise due care and attention.
    2. Buses and taxis are entitled to use bus lanes, but this does not confer absolute right of passage. For instance, if cyclists are in the bus lane, due care and consideration may require drivers to remain at a non-intimidation distance behind the cyclist.
    3. Cyclists are also bound to exercise due care and attention to other road users and themselves. Erratic, unpredictable or inconsiderate behaviour may cause accidents.

    The national cycle manual isn’t law (AFAIU) but a set of guidelines (please correct me if I’m getting that wrong). Having said that; where in section 1.8 of the NCM does it advise against implementation of Dutch-style cycling priority roundabouts? And once again, getting back to the actual law, could the NTA guide us to the relevant section of the law, or legal interpretation of Irish law, that supports that conclusion that Dutch-style cycling priority roundabouts are incompatible with Irish law.

  5. Not sure I understand what’s being ‘exposed’ here. Am I missing your point? Seems to fall into the category of tilting at windmills (ironically).

  6. A state body promoting use of a crossing (zebra crossings) which cyclists can’t legally use for cycle routes.

    The idea that the average cyclist should know that they are not allowed to use a crossing on a cycle route is bonkers. At least one council has a conflicting view to the Department of Transport (this will be outlined in the follow up article!), so how is the average person cycling on a cycle route supposed to know?

  7. are we expected to cycle on the footpath too? the cycle path disappears a good bit before the zebra crossing

  8. @Brian
    That’s designated as a ‘shared surface’. Such a lack of separation between people on bikes and people walking is bound to cause conflict, antagonism and aggro. You don’t see that sort of crap design in the Netherlands.

  9. Why wouldn’t ‘the average cyclist’ know the laws of the road? This isn’t some arcane sub-clause of an obscure statutory instrument.

    But be that as it may, what’s the harm in cycling across a zebra crossing? As I implied before, this strikes me as a non-issue. Jesuitical adherence to the letter of the law or victimless civil disobedience? I know which one I’d choose.

    Give the windmills a break. :)


  10. Why wouldn’t ‘the average cyclist’ know the laws of the road?

    Pick one or more of the following:

    (1) Because the Rules of the Road do not explain the rules of the road covering cyclists and zebra crossings and most people don’t read the road traffic acts and related written laws.

    (2) Because putting zebra crossings in the middle of cycle routes to most people implies that cyclists are allowed to use zebra crossings.

    (3) Because mixing cycle routes with areas cyclists are not allowed to use should include ‘cyclists dismount’ signs.

    (4) Because zebra crossings are not common in a lot of Ireland and many drivers have issues with not knowing the rules around yielding.

    But be that as it may, what’s the harm in cycling across a zebra crossing?

    Answered at the top of the article: “Criminal and civil liability issues could arise in the event of a collision”

    But we’re not just covering cyclists use of zebra crossings, we’re covering yet another fudged cycling-related design, and to that the secondary answers are: (1) authorities should not be designing elements of routes which encourage members of the public to break the law; (2) as other commenters have said, mixing walking and cycling is a bad idea and (3) also as said above, it’s simply is a bad design both for pedestrians and cyclists, possibly a poor Dutch knock off?

    “Jesuitical adherence to the letter of the law or victimless civil disobedience?”

    That’s a bit of a funny comment coming from somebody who implies that the average person who cycles knows all of the laws of the road.


    Give the windmills a break. :)

    Tilting at windmills is such a lovely and quaint phrase, but for the above reasons, I don’t think it applies here.

  11. If you read the various versions of the Traffic Regulations you will see that, at the time the National Cycle Manual was published, they no longer contained a requirement for motorists (or cyclists) to yield to people crossing at zebra crossings. This had been dropped (by accident or design?) from the 1997 regulations. From memory it was reinstated on the QT in 2012. Placing vulnerable road users such as cyclists outside the law is part of an established pattern of behaviour from the NTA/DoTTS. It seems to be a curiously Irish thing that individual cyclists are required to know the absolute letter of the law but that the DoTTS does not require the people they fund build roads to show the same knowledge.

  12. “designers have forgotten a key element: cyclists dismount signs.”

    The key element they’ve forgotten is to use their own brain. Cyclists are not pedestrians, you know, and zebra crossing is not a cycling infrastructure. If these farcilities are compulsory to use, then designers are just making cycling illegal on that street.

    “possibly a poor Dutch knock off”

    It has nothing to do with the Netherlands, rather it’s an inspiration from countries like Poland (and possibly other Eastern European countries) where police uses such things for fining people for cycling along a cycle route.
    See this video made by Polish cycle campaigners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74HmaXRsjyg

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