TDs look to cut out dangerous overtaking by putting passing distance of bicycles into law

Two Fine Gael TDs — Ciaran Cannon and Government chief whip Regina Doherty — have published a private members Bill that will define a minimum passing distance for motorists overtaking cyclists.

The two TDs propose a 1.5 metres- distance in speed limit zones of 60km/h and over and 1 metre distance in zones with speed limits of under 50km/h.

The TDs say that Ireland would not be the first to have such a law — minimum passing distance laws are already in place in France, Belgium, Portugal, Australia, 26 US states and several provinces in Canada.

Motorists who dangerously overtake cyclists would risk an €80 fine and three penalty points, but the man behind the fine would prefer if no motorist was ever fined.

Phil Skelton, Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 campaign, said: “Personally I’d be delighted if no driver was ever charged under this proposed legislation if it means that 99.9999% of drivers are overtaking people on bicycles, with this defined safe margin for error.”

He made the comments this morning on the Stayin’ Alive at 1.5  Facebook page, where he welcomed the proposed legislation.

The proposed legislation however is not welcomed by all — a Journal.ie poll is currently showing 59% of people voting against the measure and many online and radio commentators have started to ask questions such as “what about when cyclists break red lights?”.

Deputy Cannon said: “A worrying amount of drivers seem to have a ‘no contact, no harm’ attitude. Over the last 24 months 20 cyclists have been killed on Irish roads. It is no longer acceptable to expose our cyclists to huge risks on our roads and this law sets out to significantly reduce those risks.”

Deputy Doherty, said: “We all need to share the roads and to do that they must be made safer.”

She added: “The only way to do this is to introduce a Minimum Passing Distance Law. Once a safe passing distance is legislated for, we need to significantly raise awareness of this law by amending the Rules of the Road and funding new public awareness campaigns.”

Mike McKillen of Cyclist.ie, a group which represents most of Ireland’s cycling campaigns, said: “A significant number of drivers in Ireland don’t give sufficient space to cyclists when overtaking them. This scares the life out of the rider and it’s akin to standing on the edge of a railway platform while the train thunders past you.”

10 Comments

  1. Expect the “what about the cyclist to break the red lights lobby “to kill this bill

  2. Who should be there and not to

  3. Fantastic news. All that will be needed afterwards is some enforcement.

  4. ok lets take bets on fair this bill gets before the gov collapses, I don’t know Regina Doherty does have some pull but will this get past committee or be integrated in gov bill in this Dail term?

  5. I agree that the prevailing attitude with the guards and well as drivers is that no contact means no problem. In fact I’ve called the guards in one case after I saw a cyclist hit by a car where their attitude seemed to be that if the victim didn’t need an ambulance then there wasn’t really any issue.

    I don’t expect this to be enforced very much in isolation, after all I think it’s hard to prove. However I do think this is worthwhile because it will help in situations where a cyclist is actually hit and the motorist claims they weren’t doing anything wrong. I can think of one case where a taxi hit a cyclist and he got off because the judge determined that the driver didn’t intend to hit the cyclist. If you cut your overtaking move so close that you can accidentally hit the cyclist then you should face a penalty regardless of your intention and hopefully this law will allow that to happen.

    I think there is a huge problem with motorists passing cyclists in a dangerous manner. We must all have seen drivers who claim that they were ‘forced’ to squeeze past a cyclist. When a driver routinely passes cyclists too close and they eventually do hit someone they will assume they didn’t do anything wrong. After all, they have done this sort of thing 1000s of times and they didn’t hit anyone so how could their behaviour be at fault? In the instance where I saw a cyclist hit the motorist who was passing pulled back in before they had completely passed the cyclist and clipped their handlebars causing them to go down. This motorist simply could not accept that they were fully at fault for this collision. Their blind insistence that the cyclist should accept some of the blame was what prompted me to call the guards instead of simply letting the insurance company deal with any claim.

  6. I’m not sure about this one.

  7. How is the distance to be measured. Will there be a measuring device on every car. This bill is not properly constructed and not enforceable.

  8. Realistically, the only way this could be enforced would be to allow evidence from helmet cams to be used to charge drivers, and this would have to be allowed if this legislation is to be introduced. In the UK, West Midlands police accept helmet cam evidence to bring charges as Cian’s post from earlier this week illustrates. While only a small number of cyclists actually wear helmet cams, it might still persuade a number of drivers to improve their behaviour. As such it would be positive.

  9. A few radio show presenters showing personal biases against people who cycle in their interviews about the MPDL Bill. Do they not know that under Broadcasting Act a presenter is not supposed to let personal views get in the way of being impartial in how they conduct any interview on-air?
    Let’s name them, so far:
    Sean O’Rourke
    George Hook
    Pat Kenny
    We nominate them from a perspective of having heard the interview or on foot of complaints received from Cyclist.ie followers.

  10. they’ll probably argue that that they are providing the balance or devils advocate to the pro-cyclist person on arguing for the law, but there is point when it becomes sociopathic.

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