Ireland’s transport minister Shane Ross has said that he will bring forward legislation to have a minimum passing distance of motorists overtaking cyclists defined in law.
The law will mean motorists will have to give at least one metre overtaking distance when passing cyclists in speed zones up to 50 km/h and at least 1.5 metres when passing on roads with speed limits of over 50 km/hour.
Minister Ross made the announcement flanked by campaigner Phil Skelton, Minister Regina Doherty and junior minister Ciaran Cannon. Skelton is a Wexford-based campaigner who started the Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 campaign, while Doherty and Cannon introduced the first attempt to introduce the law before that process was hampered when they became government ministers.
In a statement, Minister Ross said: “I have been extremely concerned about the rise in cyclists fatalities on our roads. In 2017, there were 15 cyclists killed, which was a 50% increase on 2016. Clearly this is an intolerable situation which has to change. Every life lost on our roads is a tragedy and as Minister for Transport, I am committed to do everything within my power to prevent preventable road deaths.”
He added: “It was brought to my attention that other jurisdictions apply a Minimum Passing Distance and I determined to undertake research to see if such legislation would benefit Irish cyclists. I particularly wished to know if the perceived difficulties in enforcing and prosecuting offences relating to MPD legislation were outweighed by the benefits.”
Minister Ross said: “I am also proposing that the effectiveness of the new regulations be reviewed twelve months after their introduction.”
Robert Troy, a TD for Longford and Westmeath and the transport spokesman for Fianna Fáil, said on Twitter: “Disappointed my #MPDL amendment [to the Road Traffic Bill 2017 was] ruled out of order for C’tee today. Reports suggest that @Shane_RossTD will bring stand alone legislation to give this effect. Glad my amendment seems to have forced issue. Time for action not promises.”
Sligo councillor Marie Casserly said: “Today is a great day for Road Safety…Minimum Passing Distance Legislation for Ireland .. Well done Phil Skelton @SafeCyclingEire for your tireless work campaigning for safer roads for everyone and @Shane_RossTD for believing in this and running with it #MDPL #CyclingSafety.”
A statement from the department of Transport said: “All existing overtaking offences are set out in secondary legislation, this is the most appropriate route for introducing MPD for cyclists. Following their finalisation and approval by the Office of the Attorney General, the regulations will be introduced, once the required equipment for measuring the minimum passing distance has been procured by An Garda Síochana.”
The Department added: “In the interim, the Road Safety Authority will be launching an awareness campaign this Friday (weather permitting) recommending that drivers allow at least one metre overtaking distance when passing cyclists in speed zones up to 50 km/h and at least 1.5 metres when passing on roads with speed limits of over 50 km/hour.”