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Ross admits intent was to revoke mandatory use of cycle tracks

— Minister Ross commissions research rather than fixing claimed error
— RSA says it would be “inappropriate” to outline cost of research
— Ross’s office yet to clarify if he has read files from Gardai and DPP

Transport minister Shane Ross last week 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 has opted to spend taxpayers’ money on new research rather fixing the claimed error in the legislation.

Last year the Department of Transport claimed that there was no error in the legislation, and that the “explanatory note attached to the 2012 Regulation is incorrect in stating that only use of contraflow cycle track and of any cycle track in pedestrianised area is mandatory.”

ALSO READ: TIMELINE: Mandatory use of cycle tracks 

The return to research and consultation on the issue by the Minister Ross goes against a commitment in the National Cycle Policy as well as a clear Government commitment in a Dail statement made by former transport minister Leo Varadkar, which stated it was Government policy to revoke mandatory use.

The Department of Transport press office and the minister’s office have yet to reply to questions from asking if Minister Ross is fully informed on the issue and if he has viewed the documents his department refuses to release under a Freedom of Information request.

Back in October the department said it only has three documents to support the claim that the legislation which revoked mandatory use of cycle tracks is incorrect — but one of these has no detailed information and the department refused to release the other two relate to contact between the department and the Director of Public Prosecutions and Gardai.

In a written parliamentary response published on last Tuesday, Minister Shane Ross said: “The ​intention of the current legislation Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2012 (S.I. 332 of 2012) was to make cycle tracks non-mandatory except for contraflow tracks and tracks in pedestrianised areas. However, this is not what the Regulations, as drafted, provide for.”

He added: “Officials in my Department have sought the views of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána with regard to the Regulations and to the use of cycle tracks by cyclists. The RSA is currently undertaking a study on the mandatory use of cycle tracks. The results of this study are expected by the end of March. Based on the outcome of this study and taking into account the views of stakeholders, appropriate amendments to the Regulations will be made as soon as is possible thereafter.”

Minister Ross was responding to a question by Catherine Murphy, a TD for Kildare North who is one of the joint leaders of the Social Democrats party. She asked if the regulations were not as intended, would Ross “update the regulations as a matter of urgency”.

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Yesterday, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) contradicted the department and its own statements and said that the research was being conduced “by the Department of Transport”.

Elaine Gibson, a spokeswoman for the RSA, said: “We have provided as much information as we can on this project which is being conducted by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. As such, it would be inappropriate to provide anything further.”

On January 31, the Gibson said: “Following a request from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the RSA prepared a review of the available research on the topic of the safety benefits of cycle lane infrastructure in September 2016. At this point in time, the RSA stated that it would be beneficial to conduct Irish research on the topic to inform the Department in its work. The Research Department of the RSA made a number of suggestions for improving the availability of specific Irish research on the topic. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport subsequently requested that the RSA conduct this research.”

The RSA said that the research it is conducting for the Department of Transport includes:  (1) An observational study of cyclist usage of cycle lanes in locations where cycle lanes are present, (2) A face-to-face in-home survey of cyclists attitudes & behaviour with regard to cycle lane usage, (3) A systematic review of the literature regarding the safety benefits of cycle lane infrastructure, and (4) A qualitative study incorporating a series of in-depth telephone interviews with relevant stakeholders.

On January 31, the RSA said: “All components of the research cited above will be conducted by third party agencies with relevant experience in the respective methodologies. Therefore there are costs associated with each element. Costs include fieldwork, analysis and reporting as relevant.”

In relation the question of if the RSA has in previous years given a view to the department on mandatory use of cycle tracks, the RSA said yesterday that “we will need to consult further on this internally”.

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  1. No way too dangerous, mist ppl dibnit care wherevtgey walk so have to contend with prams, dogs and children in cycle lanes. As well as that, you havevti cross dangerous entrances into estates. Far better to have on road cycle lanes and have them segregated.

  2. @dublinstreams: Yes. The DoT apparently. Aside from that, and anti-cycle motorists, no-one I know that uses bikes wants them to be mandatory.

  3. **(2) A face-to-face in-home survey of cyclists attitudes & behaviour with regard to cycle lane usage**

    Does anyone know of anyone who has been contacted for this part of the survey being conducted by the RSA?

    I’d like to see the methodology of this research published. How were people chosen for interview? Were any of the cycling bodies (Dub Cycle Campaign, Cork Cycling, Galway Cycling, etc) contacted in relation to this survey for their views?

  4. Number one, the RSA are not qualified to comment on anything to do with cycling.

    Number two, the RSA’s record to-date on cycle safety is pretty poor and so they cannot be trusted. Their main overt contribution to cycle safety is handing out high-vis vests which promotes a culture of victim-blaming and “denormalizes” the activity of cycling.

  5. The RSA seem to be the main people who want these lanes mandatory. Why I don’t know. Based on their love of high-viz I suspect then may just be fans of safety theater and don’t really think things through. Remember that the RSA (and their secret legal advice) are the only ones who seem to think that the change to the rules doesn’t do what it seems to.

    This seems like a delaying tactic. As such there will be no hurry to actually do any of these studies or surveys. We could be stuck with the current arrangement for a very long time since everyone with a say actually seems to be happy with it.

    The fundamental point should be that if cycle lanes were safer and better then cyclists would use them voluntarily. Should cyclists be legally forced to use facilities which are broken, filled with rubbish, crowded with walkers, lose priorities at every junction and don’t necessarily go where they want? The answer is self evidently no. Anyone who says yes is pinning their flag to the mast as someone who is simply against cyclists.


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