We’ve covered the issue of mandatory use of cycle tracks a good deal in the last year — the law was widely viewed to be changed in 2012 to make cycle lanes and cycle paths no longer mandatory for cyclists to use.
But, last year, Department of Transport seems to have — for a lack of a better phrase — just changed its mind on this issue. The department will not release supporting documents to back its claim that mandatory use was not revoked and is still in place.
Law on cycle tracks (the legal name for cycle lanes, cycle tracks and cycle paths) makes it mandatory for cyclists to use cycle tracks bounded by solid white road marking line.
The 1997 regulations seem to provide no exceptions, but this was changed with the 1998 regulations, S.I. No. 274/1998 – Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) Regulations, 1998, which state:
(3) (a) Subject to paragraph (b), a pedal cycle must be driven on a cycle track where one is provided.
(b) Paragraph (a) shall not apply in the case of a cycle track on the right-hand edge of which traffic sign number RRM 023 [a broken white line] has been provided,
(i) where a person driving a pedal cycle intends to change direction and has indicated that intention, or
(ii) where a bus is stopped in the cycle track at a point where traffic sign RUS 031 (bus stop) is provided, or
(iii) where a vehicle is parked in the cycle track for the purpose of loading or unloading.
A letter from Galway Cycling Campaign to Bobby Molloy TD Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government, said: “It was recognised by An Foras Forbatha over 20 years ago that there are very strong and compelling arguments against some cycle track designs (Moore 1975). If of appropriate design they may be a useful way of maintaining existing levels of cycle use and as such in theory are to be welcomed.”
“It is our view however, that the Traffic and Parking Regulations (SI 182/97, SI 274/98) do not permit the use of such cycle lanes or cycle tracks. There is an explicit element of compulsion in Article 14.3 of the regulations as they now stand. The clear intent is to coerce pedal cyclists into driving without due regard to the traffic situation, their own safety or that of their property (Franklin 1997). In our view there is a serious query as to whether or not Article 14 is itself compatible with the governing legislation. This is a separate legal matter that requires clarification. It is also of note that the implied purpose of the legislation is to remove priority from those drivers who chose to use pedal cycles”
Irish Cycling Campaign delegation — including representatives of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, Cork Cycling Campaign, and Galway Cycling Campaign — meet then transport minister Marten Cullen.
According to Shane Foran of the Galway Cycling Campaign (see comments section below), “At that meeting, Minister Cullen was presented with extracts from published research showing that in certain circumstances cycle tracks could significantly increase the risk of collisions between cyclists and motor vehicles. Delegation indicated that the compulsory use element in the traffic regulations needed to be removed on safety grounds.”
2006: February 23
Dublin Cycling Campaign writes to the transport minister asking him to revoke mandatory use of cycle tracks.
2006: May 3
Ruairi Quinn TD (Labour) asked the then transport minister Martin Cullen (FF) if he will be acting on a request from the Dublin Cycling Campaign to revoke mandatory use. Minister Cullen said it will be looked at as part of a wider review of current traffic and parking regulations 1997-2005.
2006: March 21
Róisín Shortall TD (Labour) repeats the question Quinn asked and gets a shorter but similar answer from Cullen.
2006: June 7
Mary Upton TD (Labour) asked Minister Cullen “if he has reached a conclusion on the proposal made to him by the Dublin Cycling Campaign”. Minister Cullen replied: “No conclusion has yet been reached on this matter. From 3 April 2006 it is a penalty point offence to drive a vehicle on or along a mandatory cycle track during the hours of operation of the track. The scheduling of this offence under a Road Traffic Act 2002 to be a penalty point offence was to enforce compliance with road traffic law and provide an increased level of safety for cyclists required to use that type of cycle track.”
The National Cycle Policy is launched by the then transport minister Noel Dempsey and it promises that:
We will revoke the Statutory Instrument that requires cyclists to use cycle tracks where they are provided – Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Amendment Regulations, S.I. No. 274 (1998).
This regulation is unsatisfactory for a number of reasons:
(i) it is clear that the cycling infrastructure that has been constructed to date is often of a poor standard and is poorly maintained, and cyclists are required to use it;
(ii) it can force cyclists to be on cycle tracks and (when they are planning on continuing straight ahead) to be on the inside of left-turning vehicles, including Heavy Goods Vehicles;
(iii) if a group of cyclists (on a weekend cycle for example) is using a road
with an off-road cycle-track alongside it, then they are required to use
it – which is not practicable.
The National Cycle Policy has remained the policy of successive governments, including the current one.
2010: October 19
Aengus Ó Snodaigh (SF) asked the then minister for transport Noel Dempsey when he will revoke mandatory use. Minister Dempsey said: “The removal of the requirement to use cycle lanes where provided is one of the undertakings in the National Cycle Policy Framework. Subject to finalising some safety aspects of the proposal, I hope to make the necessary amending Regulations by early 2011.”
Seán Crowe TD (SF) asked the then transport minister Leo Varadkar (FG) if he will revoke mandatory use. In a verbal reply in the Dail, Varadkar stated:
“This is an easy one. The Deputy asks if there are plans to remove the mandatory use requirement for cycle lanes. The removal of the requirement to use cycle lanes where provided is one of the undertakings in the national cycle policy framework. Subject to finalising some safety aspects of the proposal, I hope to make the necessary amending regulations later in the year.”
“Where a cycle lane is provided, cyclists are required to use it, even if it is damaged or in a bad condition or inappropriate to use it. The Government agrees that the regulation should be changed and it will be.”
In the possible absence of Deputy Crowe, Dessie Ellis (SF) verbally thanks the minister for his stance.
2012: June 6
Following questions from this website, we received a reply in Q&A format from the Department of Transport press officer stated:
Could you please confirm if the law changes in relation to cyclists overtaking on the inside of traffic is proceeding?
>Yes. Secondary legislation to permit this is currently being finalised with the OPC (Office of the Parliamentary Council) and is expected to be enacted shortly.
Could you please let me know if the Department still has plans to remove mandatory use of cycle lanes (announced in 2009)? And given it is in a government policy document (the national cyclepolicy, could you please outline the continued delay in implementing this change?
>Yes. Provision for the removal of the mandatory use of cycle lanes isbeing provided for in the legislation referenced at 1. above, except forcontraflow cycle lanes and cycle lanes in pedestrian areas.
IrishCycle.com (then CyclinginDublin.com) reported the above on August 17.
2012: September 12
S.I. No. 332/2012 – Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2012 was published with a change to mandatory use. The text reads:
4) A pedal cycle shall be driven on a cycle track where—
(a) a cycle track is provided on a road, a portion of a road, or an area at the entrance to which traffic sign number RUS 021 (pedestrianised street or area) is provided, or
(b) a cycle track is a contra-flow cycle track where traffic sign number RUS 059 is provided and pedal cycles shall only be driven in a contra-flow direction on such track.
The explanatory note stated that the regulations included “new and amended requirements for use of cycle tracks (only use of contraflow cycle track and of any cycle track in pedestrianised area is mandatory)”.
Although, it is standard for such a note to state: “(This note is not part of the Instrument and does not purport to be a legal interpretation)”, this clause alone can hardly explain away the main substance of the explanatory note.
According to an email from 2013, which was seen by IrishCycle.com, Leo Varadkar, while still transport minister, wrote to a member of the public thanking them for supporting his decision to revoke the mandatory use of cycle tracks. We published an article about this in 2016 and others came forward saying that Minister Varadkar wrote similar emails to them.
In 2016 the Department of Transport also said that it could not find any records that Varadkar was told about an issue with the law before he left the department.
So-far we can only establish that the department became aware of apparent or claimed issues in the 2012 regulations in May of 2015
But, under a Freedom of Information request in 2016, the Department of Transport refused to release an “Email from Garda National Roads Policing Bureau – 13 May 2015” and “Director of Public Prosecutions response to queries – May 2015.” We reported on this on October 28, 2016.
Updated April 2017: In April 2017 a parliamentary question from Eamon Ryan TD asked if the Garda National Roads Policy Bureau and the Director of Public Prosecutions communicated with the Department of Transport in May 2015 in relation to SI 332 of 2012 and what was the reason for this. A reply in the name of Minister Shane Ross, said:
“The Garda National Roads Policing Bureau (GNRPB) communicated with my Department in May 2015 in relation to SI 332 of 2012. This communication referenced advice received by the GNRPB from the Director of Public Prosecutions. The reason for this communication arose due to work by my Department and the GNRPB on the introduction of fixed charge notices for certain cycling offences, including offences relating to cycle tracks.”
In a reply to a parliamentary question from John Browne TD asking if the minister “plans to make it an offence when cyclists do not use designated cycle lanes”, the response in the name of Minister Paschal Donohoe said: “SI 182 of 1997 as amended by SI 332 of 2012 provides that cyclists should use cycle lanes where provided.” This timeline entry was added in April 2017.
Under the same a Freedom of Information request mentioned above (May 2015), the department released a document called “Minutes of Legislative Meeting with Garda National Roads Policing Bureau – 10 December 2015”, but this document only contains the following information:
(all other info blanked out)
After they were contacted by this website, the Department of Transport claimed that mandatory use was not revoked in 2012 and that the explanatory note was “incorrect”. They did not reply to a request asking them to explain the difference between their current stance and both their 2012 statement and the ministerial and governmental intent expressed by Minister Varadkar in the Dail.
This is the first known public statement from the Department of Transport to contain their claim that mandatory use was not revoked in 2012.
Our main article on July 12 included links to a second article covering how cycling campaigners rejected the department’s view.
A change in Rules of the Road — as pointed out to us by readers — was the main thing which alerted us to the idea that the Department of Transport had changed its stance on mandatory use.
The RSA confirmed that the Rules of the Road had reflected the explanatory notice on the 2012 regulations but that the Rules of the Road were changed after the Department of Transport contacted the RSA to tell them that the note was incorrect. We published a story on this on July 22.
2016: October 14
IrishCycle.com reports: Former transport minister Leo Varadkar said he has no records and no clear recollection to relating to mandatory use of cycle lanes — a matter which he said is now for Minister Shane Ross.
2016: October 26
Maria Bailey (FG) asked the current transport minister Shane Ross “if it is still mandatory that cyclists use cycle lanes in all cases” and if he will make a statement. A written answer in Ross’ name states:
The Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 set out the current law in relation to the use of cycle tracks. These Regulations were amended in 2012 by article 16(e) of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulation 2012 as follows:
“(4) A pedal cycle shall be driven on a cycle track where-
(a) a cycle track is provided on a road, a portion of a road, or an area at the entrance to which traffic sign number RUS 021 (pedestrianised street or area) is provided, or
(b) a cycle track is a contra-flow cycle track where traffic sign number RUS 059 is provided and pedal cycles shall only be driven in a contra-flow direction on such track.”
To set it out as clearly as possible: a pedal cycle shall be driven on a cycle track where a cycle track is provided on a road; a pedal cycle shall be driven on a cycle track where a cycle track is provided on a portion of a road and a pedal cycle shall be driven on a cycle track where a cycle track is provided on an area at the entrance to which traffic sign number RUS 021 (pedestrianised street or area) is provided.
My officials are currently reviewing the Department’s policy with regard to the mandatory use of cycletracks and are consulting with the Road Safety Authority and An Garda Síochána to seek their views. Before any amendments might be made to the Regulations with regard to the mandatory use of cycle lanes, I wish to satisfy myself that any such measures strike an appropriate balance between the views of stakeholders.
2017: January 17
Seán Barrett TD (FG) asked the minister for transport “if the legislation requiring cyclists to use cycle lanes at all times at locations they are available was amended; and if so, the amendments made to the original legislation”. Minister Ross claims that “Article 14 (3) of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations of 1997 (S.I. 182) stated that all pedal cyclists must be driven on a cycle track where one is provided.”
He quotes the 2012 regulations as already quoted above and adds:
“My officials are currently reviewing the Department’s policy with regard to the mandatory use of cycletracks and are consulting with the Road Safety Authority and An Garda Síochána to seek their views. Before any amendments might be made to the Regulations with regard to the mandatory use of cycle lanes, I wish to satisfy myself that any such measures strike an appropriate balance between the views of stakeholders.”
2017: January / February
The Department of Transport has yet to respond to a number requests from IrishCycle.com for a status update on the internal review of its decision not to release documents to support its claim.
Transport minister Shane Ross admitted for the first time that a law change in 2012 was designed to revoke requirement for mandatory use of cycle tracks by cyclists, but the minister opted to spend taxpayers’ money on new research rather fixing the claimed error in the legislation.
Road Safety Authority officials refused to release the cost of research it has contracted a market research company on mandatory use of cycle tracks, saying it would be “inappropriate” to do so.
Transport minister Shane Ross said, via a spokesman, that he is to make it clear that cyclists don’t have to use cycle lanes.
IrishCycle.com reports: Cyclists don’t have to use cycle lanes new legislation confirms. Minister Ross published the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) Regulations 2018, which states:
“(4) (a) A pedal cycle shall be driven on a cycle track that is on—
(i) a road,
(ii) a portion of a road, or
(iii) an area,
at the entrance to which traffic sign number RUS 021 (pedestrianised street or area) is provided.
(b) A pedal cycle shall be driven on a cycle track at the entrance to which traffic sign number RUS 059 (contra-flow cycle track) is provided and pedal cycles shall only be driven in the direction indicated by the contra-flow cycle track.”.
The explanatory note states:
These Regulations amend the Road Traffic and Parking Regulations to clarify that only the use of contra-flow cycle tracks and any cycle track in a pedestrianised area are mandatory.
A notice in Iris Oifigiuil — the state’s legal notices newspaper — on Tuesday, August 14 also states:
“These Regulations amend the Road Traffic and Parking Regulations to clarify that only the use of contra-flow cycle tracks and any cycle track in a pedestrianized area are mandatory.”
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