Law changes to allow for on-the-spot fines for cycling on footpaths and breaking red lights are expected within months, but the issue of if this will include fines for children cycling on footpaths is still unresolved, the Minister for Transport confirmed in a written Dail reply this week.
Three TDs — Seán Kenny, Tommy Broughan, and now Róisín Shortall — have now used the written parliamentary questions system within the last month to confirm if children or their parents would be subject to fines.
As we have report twice on this issue, children under 12-years-old are below the age of criminal responsibility. However, the Department of Transport has not referred to this.
Róisín Shortall, a former Labour Party TD and now independent TD Dublin North West, asked the minister: “…his plans for the introduction of on-the-spot fines or other such penalties for cycling on footpaths; his plans that such penalties would apply to children; if so, if the views of the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs were sought before making such a proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”
Minister Paschal Donohoe, who is a Fine Gael TD for Dublin Central, said he was “very conscious” of how children cycling bicycles make of footpaths. But he did not make a firm call on the issue of fines and he repeated his previous position that he would “consult with stakeholders”.
Minister Donohoe said: “In accordance with Action 92 of the Road Safety Strategy 2013-2020, it is my intention to extend the fixed charge notice system to road traffic offences by cyclists. This will offer a significant improvement to the mechanisms available to An Garda Síochána to enforce road traffic law in cases involving cyclists, and I believe it will improve safety for all road users, cyclists included.”
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He added: “However, I am very conscious of the use that children, on and off their bicycles, make of our footpaths and all of the safety issues that must be considered. I will consult with stakeholders in relation to this specific matter before deciding policy in this area.”
The Government’s Road Safety Strategy, which as compiled by the Road Safety Authority before being approved by the Government, promised that the fines would be in place by “Q2 2014″ — so the introduction of fines already 7 months late.
For people of any age who break the law while cycling, the lack of a system of “on-the-spot fines” or “fix charge notices” means that gardai must bring bicycle users to court or let them off with a warning. If the person using a bike is summoned to court, the gardai who witnessed the law breaking must be present when the case comes before the courts. The accused will often have to take a day off work to attend court.
People accused of equivalent motoring offences have for years being able to pay an out-of-court fine. Because of this, the current setup for cycling offences is viewed as a waste of police and count time and resources. Thousands of cyclists have been brought to court accused of offences such as breaking red lights, such as these people highlighted last week on the @GardaTraffic twitter account:
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Pearse St Traffic two pedal cycle offences,both broke red light at pedestrian crossing.Summons & hi-viz gear issued pic.twitter.com/b6mw7bfzex
— An Garda Síochána (@GardaTraffic) February 5, 2015
Critics of the general plan for fines for cycling offences say that the proposed amount of €50 is disportionate compared to many motoring fines which around €60. Others highlight the fact that the Government has allowed councils across Ireland to implement shared use footpaths (main image, above) — which are often constructed by just adding extra width to current footpaths or by just placing shared use signs on footpaths with no changes.
Recently, Cllr Ciarán Cuffe, a Green Party councillor on Dublin City Council and the chairman of the council’s traffic and transport committees, said: “We all agree that penalties need to be introduced to combat dangerous cycling, and that all cyclists must obey the rules of the road, but where is the accompanying plan to introduce safe road infrastructure that protects all road users?”
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