People cycling in Ireland can choose not to use cycle lanes or cycle paths, except in very limited circumstances, it was confirmed this week by new legislation published by transport minister Shane Ross.
Notice of the new legislation was published in Iris Oifigiuil — the state’s legal notices newspaper — on last Tuesday, August 14.
The notice from the Secretary General, Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport, 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.”
The term “cycle tracks” is the legal named given to on-road cycle lanes, cycle lanes painted on footpaths, and segregated cycle paths. None of these are now mandatory on the vast majority of roads and streets in the country.
The new legislation, named the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) Regulations 2018, can be downloaded from irishstatutebook.ie (PDF).
The mandtory nature of cycling infrastructure — which is widely accepted as often of a low quality — has been in dispute for 20 years.
In 2011, in the Dail chamber, Leo Varadkar, the then transport minister, said: “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.”
Varadkar added: “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.”
Minister Varadkar, changed the law in 2012 to revoke mandtory use. Then, years later in 2015, an issue with the law was apparently discovered but the Department of Transport has so-far refused to release the legal opinion, by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, that there was any flaw with the 2012 law and cycling campaigners did not agree with the department’s view.
The view of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions does not constitute a “ruling” and there has been no indications from any officials that any court has made any determination on the 2012 law.
Late last year, after commissioning research on the issue, minister Shane Ross said that he would make it clear that cyclists don’t have to use cycle lanes. The law change last week fulfills this promise.
TIMELINE: Mandatory use of cycle tracks
EDITED: Clarity added around Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ legal view. Images of signs where mandatory use applies also added for clarity.