Cyclists don’t have to use cycle lanes, Ross to clear confusion

Transport minister Shane Ross is to amend legislation to make it clear that cyclists in Ireland can choose to not use cycle lanes or segregated cycle paths.

“The Minister intends to amend the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations to clearly show that the use of cycle tracks is only mandatory for a cycle track in a pedestrianized area or for a contraflow cycle track,” said Jimmy Thompson, a spokesman for the Department of Transport.

He added: “Officials in the Department are currently working on the regulations and it is hoped to have them in place in the near future.”

Last year, minister Ross commissioned the Road Safety Authority to review the safety of cycle tracks and garner the opinion of cycling groups.

“Based on the survey conducted on behalf of the RSA as well as the view of international literature it cannot be definitively stated that cycle lane treatment provides safety benefits for cyclists and specific risks have been identified at roundabouts and junctions,”said Moyagh Murdock, CEO of the RSA.

Murdock said: “On that basis the RSA recommends that the use of cycle lane infrastructure by cyclists should be advisory rather than mandatory.”

She made the comments in a letter to the department in July and which was released this week under environmental FOI made by this website.

IMAGES: 25 reasons why cyclists don’t use cycle lanes

The law requiring people cycling to use cycle tracks — the legal name for most types of cycle lanes and cycle paths — was revoked by Leo Varadkar when he was transport minister in 2012.

But, in 2015, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) came to the view that the revocation never happened because of an error in the way the legislation was written. The interpretation by the DPP was passed onto the Department of Transport by the Garda National Roads Policing Bureau — the release of this advice is currently subject to an on-going appeal lodged recently with the Commissioner for Environmental Information.

This website understands the view that the legislation was flawed was based on a missing comma, but different legal experts consulted by cycling campaigners disagreed with the view that this invalidated the intent of the law.

Cycling campaigners said that the interpretation was flawed, that the ministerial intent was clear, and that, in any case, it was government policy, as set by the National Cycle Policy, to revoke mandatory use of cycle tracks.

The Road Safety Authority has refused to release details of the costs of the research, saying it was commissioned by the Department of Transport. The department responded by stating that it has no details of the cost of the research.

TIMELINE: Mandatory use of cycle tracks
READ: RSA letter to and research for the Department of Transport


  1. Question: Does this also mean cyclists in Ireland are not (any more) obliged to use a physically segregated (separated from other road users) cycle PATH in urban circumstances?

    Note: The legal (double) meaning of ‘track’ for both ‘lane’ and ‘path’ has always been confusing and was never advised by Dutch experts working on Irish Cycle Manuals.

    • @inpetto63 — yes, it means all general cycle tracks, segregated or not, will not be mandatory.

      With two exceptions — contra-flow cycle tracks and cycle tracks in pedestrians areas (ie across part of a plaza). These will remain mandatory.

  2. The RSA document linked above is an interesting read. One extract: “segregated cycle infrastructure at high volume, high speed roundabouts should be mandatory”.

    What is the RSA doing about the design of new transport infrastructure (eg Cherrywood)? Was there a requirement for full segregation? Was this ignored in the design brief?

    I don’t have much confidence in the management at the RSA. It seems to me the focus is style over substance. They produce infographics and trot out the same old story of high-viz and helmets. The focus should be segregation and reducing speed. Unfortunately, these are politically unacceptable.

  3. I found it fascinating. I’d love to get access to the original survey questions – I’m curious what was asked that meant that 84% of cyclists thought cycle lane usage should be mandatory. As someone who has been hospitalised a few times due to poorly serviced cycle lanes, I’m curious.

  4. “Over 3 in 4 cyclists agreed that cycle lanes/tracks are well designed and well maintained.”

    Who were these people, and where are they cycling?

  5. I wonder if this will affect the quality of the cycle lanes being put in. From the point of view of car focused councils it doesn’t matter how bad the cycle lanes are for the cyclists so long as they get bicycles out of the way of cars. Now they may have to put in something that cyclists actually want to use.

    Which is what they should have been doing all along.


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