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RSA claims it can’t find “relevant” records on cycle lane legal advice

Ireland’s Road Safety Authority said that it is “unable to locate any records relevant” to a environmental freedom of information request on cycle lanes.

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It follows the Road Safety Authority (RSA) rejecting a normal freedom of information request for the same information — it said that this information relating to legal advice on cycle lanes was “commercially sensitive”. Both requests were made at the same time, in the same email, but there was a delay by the authority in responding to the environmental request.

The requests were made after the RSA said that there is “legal ambiguity around whether the law could be effectively enforced” in cases where a motorist enters a cycle lane marked with a solid white line (legally known as a mandatory cycle track). This position contradicts the Rules of the Road and the Department of Transport, who told this website that there is no issue with the law stopping motorists from entering mandatory cycle tracks and that it is open for the Gardai to prosecute motorists for such an offence.

The environmental request was made under Ireland’s Access to Information on the Environment regulations which is supported by EU law.

The records — which the RSA claims that could not be found after the environmental request — were detailed by the RSA in rejection of the standard FOI request as follows:

  1. Email from Road Safety Authority to Legal Firm on 23rd May 2013 @13.27, seeking legal advice in relation to Taxis stopping in cycle lane.
  2. Email from Legal Firm to Road Safety Authority on Monday 10th June 2013 @ 18.41 outlining legal advice in relation to Taxis stopping in cycle lane.
  3. Internal RSA email Monday 10th June @ 19.48 sharing legal advice in relation to Taxis stopping in cycle lane.

All of the above records were not released under FOI due to “commercially sensitive”. The FOI rejection letter stated that the legal advice is based on “the unique knowledge, understanding and the intellectual property right of the legal firm involved which has been developed over the past 30 years in the management of civil liability claims arising from road traffic incidents.”

The letter said that the firm “do not act for plaintiffs, but act for and are retained under contract by multinational insurers…”.

It is the view of IrishCycle.com that cycling infrastructure and anything that affects such is cleared coved under the wide-ranging Access to Information on the Environment regulations. The regulations counts environmental information as measures such as policies, legislation, plans, programmes, environmental agreements, and activities which are likely to affect or designed to protect the environment, or elements of it.

In a written Dail reply recently, the minister for transport, Paschal Donohoe, made the link between cycling provisions and protection of the environment. Referring to encouraging the use of public transport, cycling and walking, the minister said: “It is a key objective of transport policy to encourage modal shift away from the car so as to improve economic competitiveness through reduced congestion, particularly in high density urban environments such as Dublin. This also supports climate change mitigation through reducing emissions.”

It is also the view of IrishCycle.com that it is clear that at both a European and an Irish level, policy sees infrastructure such as cycle lanes as environmental measures which are aimed at protecting the environment by limiting emissions. If such infrastructure is compromised by information held by the RSA, then the environment is at risk of suffering because cycling is less attractive so more people will drive or drive more often thus increasing car use and increasing harmful emissions. The cycle lanes misused results in having more parking than planned by the local authority, thus also increasing car use and also increasing harmful emissions.

The RSA reply to our Access to Information on the Environment request:

Final Reply (1)

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4 comments

  1. Do other public bodies like the NTA and the Gardaí get advice from the RSA or directly the department? I’d be interested in what the NTA makes of the situation given their role in setting cycle lane standards.

    Reply
  2. Sounds a little fishy to me. Commercially sensitive? Another reason for secrecy! Of course it’s not as if secrecy in Ireland hasn’t led to problems in the past! (NAMA, Banking tribunals, clerical child sex abuse, phone tapping, etc.) If you are not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to hide.

    Reply

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