Has solidarity with pedestrians been set aside by cycle campaigners?

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: For those outside cycle campaigning, it may not always be obvious that historically cycle campaign groups have been a main part of the walking lobby, writes the Galway Cycling Campaign.

Typically the cycle campaigns are signed up to, and promote, a “Hierarchy of Road Users” that puts people on foot and the mobility impaired ahead of cycling.

Major cycle campaign groups follow the principles of the “Road Danger Reduction Charter” that promotes both walking and cycling and seeks coordinated action to improve the safety of both modes together. The cycle campaigns have made common cause with people on foot over issues like road design, junction design, speed limit policy, town planning, roads policing, etc. These common causes are outlined in the founding document of Cyclist.ie in 2008.

Documents from the European Cyclists Federation (ECF) and other campaign groups make clear that the needs of pedestrians have equal and even higher status than those of cyclists. The moral authority of cycle campaigns depends on a commitment that they work for all vulnerable roads users. In particular, there was an understanding that cyclists would defend these shared interests and refuse to make common cause against other vulnerable roads users for their own gain.

The established position of the ECF and local cycle campaign groups is that they are absolutely opposed to compulsory helmets and compulsory high-visibility clothing. Readers unfamiliar with the field will find relevant links below. To summarise, the claimed benefits of both helmets and high-visibility clothing are a matter of dispute. Calls for cyclists and others to wear such items are viewed as victim blaming and as an attempt to excuse dangerous driving.

For a discussion in the context of the minimum passing distance law, read the Galway Cycling Campaign briefing document. This is not to dismiss reflective clothing in principle, but such measures must be discussed in a context that considers the totality of measures needed to protect the vulnerable

Before 27 February 2018, Irish people who go about their daily lives on foot could trust that the Irish cycle campaigns would watch out for their interests in contacts with state actors. As of this week, however, it must be asked whether the basis for that trust and credibility is at risk from the mandatory passing distance lobbying efforts by some cycling interests.

Readers may be aware of an ongoing political campaign related to a push for a minimum passing distance law for motorists passing cyclists. This is something that Irish cycle campaign groups have been pushing for years. On 21 February 2018 an event was held outside Leinster House whose purpose was to hand over a joint document on the minimum passing distance law proposals to Minister of Transport Shane Ross.

The intent was that it would be passed to the Oireachtas Select Committee on Transport in support of amendments that Deputy Robert Troy TD (Fianna Fáil Transport Spokesperson) would be proposing to the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017. In his actions before the Select Committee, Robert Troy could therefore be seen to be acting as the acclaimed champion of all those groups who had signed this document. Thus these groups were now directly associated with any other amendments affecting vulnerable road users that Deputy Troy wished to bring forward at the same committee.

Deputy Robert Troy is a very strange bedfellow for active-travel campaigners, as he is well known to be opposed to people walking and cycling while wearing ordinary, everyday clothes. Deputy Troy advocates compulsory cycling helmets and compulsory high-visibility clothing. In an Oireachtas Joint and Select Committee meeting on 8 February 2017, Deputy Troy called for legislation to require pedestrians to wear high-visibility clothing and had obtained provisional agreement of the Minister of Transport, who said he could see no objections.

As recently as 14 November 2017, in a subsequent contribution on the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017, Deputy Troy stated: “It should be mandatory for all cyclists to wear a helmet at all times. I have already discussed with the Minister the need for pedestrians to wear high-visibility jackets on unlit roads. That is another amendment which I will bring forward on Committee Stage. The Minister shares my concern and supported me when I raised the matter previously. This is an opportunity to address the issue.”

The Select Committee on Transport was due to meet to discuss the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017 again on Wednesday 28 February. On 26 February the amendments to be discussed were published. In addition to the minimum passing distance law amendment, Deputy Troy included – as he had said he would – an amendment that would legally oblige people on foot to wear high-visibility clothing on “unlit” roads.

Observers noted that the phrasing of Deputy Troy’s high-visibility clothing amendment seemed incomplete and would need further work. Such work is the purpose of structures like the committees on transport, who have the “power to draft recommendations for legislative change and for new legislation”. Such recommendations might well include extending the measure to other groups, such as cyclists.

There is already a wider political context of Garda Síochána management actively lobbying for compulsory high-visibility clothing for cyclists and pedestrians. Various other interests are known to be lobbying for compulsory high-visibility clothing.

This immediately created a situation where a local ECF member group and other campaign groups were publicly and undisputedly associated with a political effort to impose a measure on pedestrians that the ECF opposes for cyclists. Further, this support was given in a political context where mandatory high-visibility clothing could end up being recommended for cyclists as well.

Silence from those groups, given their prominent public association with Deputy Troy, would mean effective consent on this measure. The best way for the campaign signatories to the passing distance law submission document to retain credibility would be to publicly disagree with Mr Troy’s clothing proposals, actively campaign for him to withdraw them, and lobby the other committee members to reject them.

In the end, those involved were rescued by an unexpected hero in the form of Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, when the Ceann Comhairle (Speaker of the House) rejected the proposed Traffic Bill amendments as “out of order”.

The following day the Minister offered an alternative legal pathway in the form of a Statutory Instrument or addition to the Traffic Regulations (sometimes called the “Rules of the Road”). Minister Ross would normally be excoriated by the same cycle campaigners, so there is irony in the fact that he stepped in to save them from destroying that trust and solidarity, which had been built up over decades with the very people they are meant to represent – the ordinary people of Ireland who walk and cycle on a daily basis.

This article is presented as the view of the Galway Cycling Campaign, it is published here in the interest of open debate — alternative views are also welcomed in the comment section below or in reply articles.

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Working Notes:

  • Road Danger Reduction Charter
  • Galway Cycling campaign MPDL briefing document: http://www.galwaycycling.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Briefing_document_re_MPDL_proposals_final.pdf
  • European Cyclists Federation: https://ecf.com/sites/ecf.com/files/ECF%20comments%20for%20EC%20Road%20Safety%20meeting_26_10_2016_plus%20addendum.pdf
  • European Cyclists’ Federation input for Commission Workshop in Preparation of High-level Road Safety Conference in Malta European Cyclists’ Federation Ceri Woolsgrove, Policy Officer c.woolsgrove@ecf.com 07/11/2016: “Plans should adopt the common hierarchy of transport users based on safety, vulnerability and sustainability with pedestrians at the top, followed by cyclists and public transport users.”
  • ECF and Reflective vests: https://ecf.com/news-and-events/news/serbian-cycling-community-unites-against-mandatory-reflective-vests
  • http://czzs.org/repeal-of-obligatory-bicycle-helmet-law-in-bosnia-and-herzegovina/?lang=en
  • About changes in the law in Bosnia and Herzegovina, they said: Ceri Woolsgrove, expert on traffic safety, the European Cyclists Federation, Brussels: “European Cyclists Federation (ECF) believes that cyclists should be able to choose whether to wear or not to wear helmets and reflective vests. We do not agree with the mandatory use of helmets and reflective vests.
  • For a wider discussion of high-visibility clothing, see the Road Danger Reduction Forum: https://rdrf.org.uk/2013/10/31/hi-viz-for-cyclists-and-pedestrians-sensible-precaution-or-victimblaming
  • Cycle helmets: An overview of the evidence: https://www.cyclinguk.org/sites/default/files/document/2017/11/helmets-evidence_brf.pdf
  • Role of the Committee: https://beta.oireachtas.ie/en/committees/32/transport-tourism-and-sport/our-role/
  • Link to proposed amendments to Traffic Bill: http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=37944&CatID=85
  • Terms of reference: http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/media/committees/transport/Committee-on-Transport—Terms-of-Reference.doc.docx
  • Function powers and scope: http://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/parliamentaryBusiness/termsOfReference/2017/2017-03-30_functions-powers-and-scope-of-departmental-committees_en.pdf

19 Comments

  1. It was said by those involved in pushing for the MDPL that the HiViz amendment was separate from the MDPL amendment and therefore would be voted upon individually. HOWEVER, this confounding of the two issues certainly gave me cause for concern, not for the MDPL, but as stated here, the impression that cycling advocates would not raise objections to a bill that would directly negatively affect people on foot.

    I have always been in favor of making our roads and public spaces safer and better as living spaces. I would agree with the sentiment of the above opinion piece that the apparent lack (i’m not sure what went on behind the scenes) of push-back against the HiViz element of the bill was a failure on behalf of cycling campaigners to lobby for all.

    As I say, I don’t know what went on behind the scenes, but publicly it didn’t look good.

    I’d also like to say that I’m aware that many people put in A LOT of effort to raise the attention of the MDPL and to get TDs on-board. And while that’s fantastic, and I really appreciate all those efforts, I also agree with the above opinion that we must promote all aspects of active travel, and push-back against anything that seeks to undermine walking or cycling. Whilst we in the cycling ‘community’ will of course focus mainly on cycling-related issues, we cannot allow walking to be undermined.

    Just my opinion.

  2. Some recognition of the original intention of the bill would have been dignified too, cyclist also get knocked down by drunk drivers. Its very helpful for a government minister’s husband to want some thing, that gets things to happen.

  3. I Bike Dublin was present at the meeting with Robert Troy after the vigil in Kildare St in late November. We strongly opposed the idea of introducing mandatory hi-viz on the grounds that it is a way to offload safety responsibility from drivers to pedestrians.

    The first version of FF’s proposed amendments did not mention MHV and we considered it to no longer be an issue. To the best of our recollection, all cycling groups present also opposed MHV.

    On the 26th Feb the new version of FF’s amendments were posted to the committee. We noticed the introduction of MHV amendment and made the following public comments on the 27th:

    “Politicians that support #mhv will find it hard to explain to their constituents. Doubtful that it will pass, but still a good idea to get in touch with your local TDs and let them know what you think of it.” 2:30 PM – 27 Feb 2018

    Followed by:

    “Can the state remove a person’s right to go somewhere based on what they are wearing? Think about it, it raises many questions, including human rights (Article 13, freedom of movement).” 2:51 PM – 27 Feb 2018

    As a group heavily involved in the latter stages of the MPDL campaign we reject the broad suggestion that we, or any of the other groups were complicit with the proposal for MHV.

  4. I completely disagree with the idea that if you support the MPDL you also implicitly support everything else that Troy does.

  5. @Eric

    From reading the article above, I do not think Galway Cycling Campaign are stating that “if you support the MPDL you also implicitly support everything else that Troy does”.

    I think they are pointing out that some of the MPDL supporters knowingly worked with and backed a TD who supports criminalizing people for walking in everyday clothes (& in November of last year called for mandatory helmet use for people on bikes) and asking why active travel campaigners would consider it wise to support such a TD. I think it is a very fair question to ask.

  6. @Bob
    I don’t think it is correct to say that cycling advocates “backed” Robert Troy – they backed his amendment to introduce MPDL. The distinction is important. The handover of the petition outside Leinster House happened four days before the proposed amendment on mandatory hi-viz was published. At the time of that event there was no suggestion that Deputy Troy was going to go ahead with the hi-viz amendment – in fact there was every reason to suspect that he had been persuaded not to include this amendment following representations last year from members of I BIKE Dublin, Dublin Cycling Campaign and Safe Cycling Ireland.

    The amendment was published on the 26th and, as Stephen notes above, I BIKE Dublin along with several other campaigners spoke out against this proposal in advance of the announcement that the amendments had been ruled out of order. I think some of the claims made in the article are unfair on the people who worked so hard to achieve the MPDL legislation.

    Having said that I welcome the Galway Cycling Campaign raising the issue – it is important to remember that cycling and walking campaigners have a shared purpose and that we should be supportive of each others aims. There is no doubt that the issue of mandatory hi-viz will raise its head again and it is important that there is no ambiguity about the position of cycling advocates on this issue.

  7. “why active travel campaigners would consider it wise to support such a TD”

    @bob are you suggesting that MPDL should have been opposed because of who was proposing it? The title of the article suggests a different issue, not who, but whether pedestrians were compromised by a choice made, which I have already addressed in my previous comment.

    MPDL, as a law proposal, was originally written by Ciaran Cannon and Regina Doherty as a private member’s motion. As they became ministers they were unable to drive it any further due to government rules, so the proposal was all but dead on the water. If Robert Troy had not decided to pick it up and bring it in as an amendment to the traffic act 2017, MPDL would probably have remained in limbo for years.

    To suggest that to support a proposal by any TD one should look at their whole history to see if there’s something else one might not agree with is almost funny because you might end without a single politician that you may be willing to work with. Nonetheless, we criticised the MHV proposal as soon as we became aware of it.

    I Bike Dublin supported MPDL because it is probably the most important single piece of legislation in a generation for the safety of people who cycle. The decision to support this is not an endorsement of any other point of view and is absolutely independent of any political party, and to suggest otherwise is laughable.

    Ultimately MPDL benefited from significant cross-party support as the TD & Senator tracker clearly shows.

  8. @Ciaran

    I’m not sure about your claim “At the time of that event there was no suggestion that Deputy Troy was going to go ahead with the hi-viz amendment”. Troy’s support for mandatory hi-viz for pedestrians (& helmet use for people on bikes) and his intention to bring forward such an amendment was on the public record for all to see. & I’m pretty sure Safe Cycling Ireland tweeted, after the publication of the amendments, that no one such be surprised by the actions of Troy as he is a supporter of mandatory hi-viz.

    @Stephen

    It is not Robert Troy’s history we are talking about, it is his present views that are the problem. Personally, I think pedestrians were unfairly compromised by some MPDL advocates working with and backing Troy. & as the article outlines, if his amendment had of made it to the Select Committee, hi-viz for pedestrians may have easily become hi-viz and helmets for people on bikes too.

  9. “from:@SafeCyclingEire Robt Troy has never mentioned mandatory hi-viz for cyclists. He cleared that up with us at at meeting in Leinster House in November” lostexpectation/status/963181370917957632 twitter dot com lostexpectation/status/963181370917957632 This is what you calling solidarity.

  10. @bob, you are making your own interpretation of the article and using those interpretations to accuse campaigners. Are you speaking on behalf of GCC? And, if not, would you mind identifying yourself?

    Here is the only amendment text we had seen until 26th February, as you can see, hi-viz was not part of the proposed amendments: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1mWqJ7GQo7EPDvs5U0J0nQwsTJW70lrSg

    And you still have not replied this question: “are you suggesting that MPDL should have been opposed because of who was proposing it?”

    And, additionally, who are the MPDL advocates who “unfairly compromised pedestrians” and how do you suggest this compromise occured?

    I also wonder whether Irish Cycle is happy hosting these unfounded accusations.

  11. We are not going to get a safe and pleasant environment and a clean and efficient transport system without advocates of the “eco-modes” working together. The alliance between cycling and walking is important, and common ground also exists between active travel and public transport. It is important to strengthen these bonds. But the priorities and personalities of advocates for the different modes are never going to be in full alignment up and down the country, so pursuing joint strategic aims is only possible if differences are handled in good faith and in a constructive spirit. Suggesting that some of the people who strongly supported Robert Troy’s MPDL amendment should have criticised his views on hi-vis more vociferously in public before the text of both amendments was released is a legitimate opinion and perhaps a constructive comment. Doing so would have entailed risks, but perhaps they were worth taking. Not doing so was, after all, also risky. This piece could have made that argument – now historical and unprovable either way – without tainting so many supporters of Robert Troy’s MDPL amendment by associating them with Robert Troy’s views on MHV and painting them as anti-pedestrian. And it would have been a better piece for it.

  12. @Sarah
    I didn’t interpret the opinion piece as suggesting that those who support the bill were ant-walking, just that it was perhaps unwise to not be more vocal about pushing back against the bill whilst it had that foul HiViz crap in it.

  13. And when you are ant walking will the ant need hi viz

  14. @Stephen

    I am suggesting that some of those pushing for MPDL should have been more politically savvy in relation to who they were dealing with.

    The following tweet, posted after the publication of the amendments, demonstrates that at least some individuals or organisations involved in the MPDL push were in no way surprised by Troy’s hi-viz amendment.

    https://twitter.com/SafeCyclingEire/status/968446127916900353
    Safe Cycling Ireland: “Nobody should be surprised at RTs hi-vis amendment. He’s on record as looking for this.”

    I believe working with and publicly backing a TD that holds such regressive views on walking unfairly compromised pedestrians. Did Troy give you a commitment that he would not push for hi-viz for pedestrians? If not, I think it was naive to assume that he would row back on something he had previously campaigned for.

    My views are my own and I am not speaking on behalf of any group.

  15. Right, @bob. You are obviously misinformed and choosing to ignore what I said before. Since we got MPDL and the hi-viz amendment did not get through, you are just moaning about a non-issue – complaining is easy, isn’t it?

    Carry on with your anonymised nonsense, I’m done with you.

  16. @Stephen

    So, no commitment from Troy then.

    You call it a non-issue, I call it compromising the rights of pedestrians (that worked out purely through luck). We’ll let others make up their own mind.

    BTW, the majority of posters on this thread are anonymous.

  17. Agree with well argued reasoned views expressed here by Stephen, Ciaran & Eric. @Bob, it wasn’t ‘just luck’ that ped hi vis didn’t get through. Tabling an amendment is not the same as it being passed,. The Transport Committee would have had to accept it & then a majority of deputiesl at 4th stage.Personally I distinguished betw the MPD Amendment which was carefully crafted with legal advice as acknowledged by @safe cycling Eire & C Cannon & hi-viz for peds which seemed to have been penned by R Troy off the top of his head..

  18. Robert Troy “I intend to reintroduce some of my amendments that have been ruled out of order” https://www.kildarestreet.com/committees/?id=2018-02-28a.392&s=amendments+speaker%3A341#g405

    @stephen you havn’t got MPDL, all we’ve got is a collection of photos of people standing next to politicians.

  19. @Joan

    But why publicly back a TD who likes to pen anti active travel amendments “off the top of his head”. Especially when such amendments can easily be added to at the Committee Stage.

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