Road Safety Authority advert risks “pandering” to motorists who don’t like cyclists filtering

— Campaigner says “weaving” is too vague and often used by motorists complaining about filtering.

Officials at the Road Safety Authority have defended a radio advertisement telling listeners that cyclists should “never weave in and out of traffic” despite the National Transport Authority guidance outlining how weaving as a normal practice.

The advertisement has aired a number of times since the start of May as part of the RSA’s sponsorship if RTE’s Drivetime radio programme.

Oxford English Dictionary defines weaving as a movement as “Twist and turn from side to side while moving somewhere in order to avoid obstructions” — cycling campaigners view weaving to be part of what is known as “filtering”, which they say is legal for cyclists.

Filtering was also given extra legal backing in 2012 when the practice of overtaking on the left when cycling was clarified as legal in legislation.

“The term ‘weaving in and out of traffic’ is effectively meaningless if it is not defined or clearly explained”, said Simon Comer of Galway-based campaign group Cosáin. “The RSA used the phrase on national radio as if everyone knows what it means. Who listens to Drivetime? Lots of drivers, we presume, given the title of the programme and the time of day.”

He added: “‘Weaving in and out of traffic’ is a phrase often used by drivers who are criticising people who cycle for perceived violations of the Rules of the Road. But is that what ‘weaving’ really is? Is weaving unlawful? Is it dangerous? Or are drivers merely perceiving normal or adaptive cycling behaviour as somehow illegal or inappropriate? Who decides, and on what subjective or objective criteria?”

Cosáin pointed to numerous of examples of motorists complaining on twitter of “cyclists weaving” or “weaving between cars”, many of which seem to relate to motorist being annoyed at cyclists filtering in slow moving or stopped traffic.

“Unless the RSA makes an informed or evidence-based case for warning against ‘weaving in and out of traffic’ then they risk pandering to cycle-hostile prejudice by casual and context-free use of such vague terminology on national radio,” said Comer.

The National Cycle Manual, published by the National Transport Authority, states that: “Weaving is a mechanism by which cyclists wishing to turn right will move across traffic while approaching a junction so as to get into the correct road position or lane.”

Another section of the manual states: “Where weaving occurs, the Dutch advice (CROW) is to limit the speed differential between bicycle and traffic to 10km/h, in order that bicycles can weave in front of vehicles with relative comfort and safety etc.”

A spokesman for the National Transport Authority, the authors of the National Cycle Manual. said: “The description of weaving that we use in National Cycling Manual, published in 2011, is one we are happy to stand over for the purposes of the manual.”

Elaine Gibson, a spokeswoman for the RSA said: “There is a difference between weaving in and out of traffic and filtering, namely; Weaving refers to a situation where a road user moves erratically left and right and left again through moving or very slow moving traffic ie moving along in a winding or zigzag course through traffic.”

“Filtering involves a road user correctly overtaking static traffic, observing the Rules of the Road. Once the traffic starts moving freely again, it is important to reintegrate into the traffic flow in a safe manner. It is important to point out that the Rules of the Road apply to all road users,” she added.

Gibson said: “The advertisement is aimed at cyclists who weave in and out of forward travelling traffic. The Rules of the Road apply to all road users.”

The Rules of the Road does not refer to cycling and weaving directly and the only mention of weaving within the rules is relating to motorists and is proceeded by the word “recklessly”.

The RSA was asked what does the Rules of the Road say about filtering or weaving while cycling but the authority did not reply to that question or other questions on the lack of clarity in the radio advertisement as to what weaving means.

8 Comments

  1. I have to weave away from bike lanes because vehicles are constantly encroaching on the lane at traffic lights, leaving me no alternative but to move lanes to proceed.

  2. Does Elaine Gibson cycle? I’m talking about commuting not weekend ambles. I’m guessing not, therefore she really isn’t to comment – she (and others) should be called out on these issues.

  3. > therefore she really isn’t to comment
    should read “therefore she really isn’t qualified to comment”

  4. @Austin — I try to always publish spokespeople’s names for transparency and as a matter of good practice, but spokespeople as just that, they are speaking for their organisation, it’s not their personal view.

  5. Oh yeah good point! Though it seems like very few decision makers in the RSA and other key organisations commute by bicycle – I wonder is there a way of quantifying this ?

  6. Mike McKillen June 1, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    The RSA gets it wrong about cycling yet again! Why? I’ll wager that few of its senior decision-making staff based in Ballina are commuting cyclists as opposed to sporting/sportive types.
    If some of those senior staff have done certified cycling skills training (Bikeability/Cycle Right) could they please declare themselves?

  7. Every evening I have to do a some filtering around cars. The traffic is all stationery due to the congestion, but the inside line is blocked by either parked cars or traffic too close to the footpath. The safest option is to filter up to the front, and move off when the lights go green. While I know this is perfectly legal, I expect some drivers will get a mixed message from the radio. This will only cause more polarisation on the road and frustration for both motorists and cyclists.

    I really do wonder about the RSA. I have no confidence in it as an organisation.

  8. It is worth reiterating the point you already made. Putting “weaving” and “obeying the rules of the road” together like that is designed to imply that this is clear cut when apparently it is not at all. Since there is no real definition of “weaving” then each motorist is left to determine for themselves whether a cyclist is breaking the rules. Allowing people to decide for themselves that any given cyclists is a criminal is very dangerous based on how unstable and aggresive some motorists seem to be.

    My personal definition of weaving involves frequent lane changes, back and forth. The guy who comes up behind you, then passes on the inside, changes back in to your lane, then crosses two lanes to pass someone else in lane one.

    I very rarely see cyclists doing this sort of thing, although I do sometimes see that and worse. I very often see cyclists filtering past stopped traffic, moving out in to traffic to go around someone who has parked their car at the side of the road or crossing multiple lanes so they can turn right. I am very concerned that this will empower aggresive, bad drivers to endanger cyclists engaging in totally legitimate behaviour.

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