— Examples may be dismissed, but the consequences can be serious injury, says Judge.
Little or no enforcement of motorists running red lights at pedestrian crossings and motorists illegally using cycle lanes was highlighted by Justice Peter Charleton in the third report of the Disclosure Tribunal released yesterday.
He said the visibility of the national police force was an issue as officers keep themselves “isolated” in Garda stations and “then transport themselves around in squad cars”.
While the non-enforcement of motorists using cycle lanes was recently publicly accepted by the justice minister, Judge Charleton is the highest-profile figure to mention motorists running red lights at pedestrian lights.
Data from one of Ireland’s only two red light camera — both of which are inactive — shows that that more motorists run red lights than cyclists, while commentators often claim that motorists rarely run red lights. The red light camera at Blackhall Place (pictured above) was used to fine 1,300 motorists before it was shut off due to lack of agreements in place between the agencies involved.
The judge said that there was obligation of gardaí to be visible, but that an “extraordinary aspect of our police force is that they keep themselves isolated in police stations and then transport themselves around in squad cars.”
Justice Peter Charleton wrote: “In undertaking hundreds of journeys between the Four Courts and Dublin Castle during the currency of the tribunal, on only one occasion was there a policeman to stop a taxi or car breaking through a pedestrian light. While this may be belittled as a small example, the effect of police challenge was immediate and salutary. People behave well, generally, in the presence of uniformed officers of the law.”
The Judge said: “Other examples include the extent to which cycle lanes, there to protect those cycling for economic, health and environmental motives, who are extraordinarily vulnerable, are simply ignored. Cars block cycle lanes, intrude on them and endanger cyclists. That happens repeatedly within a minute’s walk of garda stations. So, where are the gardaí? Again, this may be dismissed as a small example, but the consequences of serious injury, for even one person, is a tragedy.”
“In countries where there is a terrorist threat, police presence is manifest as a matter of necessity. Ireland, while not having any immediate terrorist threat, but with a serious organised crime problem, has a real problem due to the invisibility of our police force,” he said.
He added: “That is not a small matter. If it is said that the gardaí are too busy to be out on foot or on bicycles, the tribunal begs to doubt that. Everyone serving in the police should give a portion of the day to foot and bicycle patrols”.