Cycling on footpaths in Galway is a symptom of the failure of Galway City Council and the National Transport Authority to provide safe cycling infrastructure, according to Cllr Pauline O’Reilly (Green Party).
She said that cyclists shouldn’t break the law but that it ends up being a catch 22 situation where authorities have promoted cycling but failed to provide the required infrastructure.
The new city councillor made the comments after Gardai told a Galway City Joint Policing Committee that more resources are to be used to target scofflaw cyclists.
Cllr O’Reilly said: “In response to a report from the gardai on incidents of various types offences at the Joint Policing Committee, it was noted that Pedal Cycle Offences were up from 10 to 24 in the last 6 month period. The Gardai said that further resources would be allocated and there was significant input from community representatives and some councillors on cyclists on footpaths.”
“There is a huge issue around a lack of safe cycling infrastructure in Galway, with less than 5% of people cycling. I asked that cyclists who were taking the defensive action to save their lives by breaking the law be shown leniency given the complete failure by the Council and the NTA to provide safe infrastructure for them and that given the low level of resources available to the Gardai that it may be better to allocate scarce resources to other areas such as domestic violence,” said Cllr O’Reilly.
She added: “Cyclists shouldn’t break the law, but in places where the road is too dangerous and there is no cycling infrastructure is provided they are in a catch 22.”
Cllr O’Reilly said that the planned increased enforcement resources was said to be put in place after ‘pressure’ and she was the only person at the meeting to argue for any leniency.
The Galway Cycling Campaign said: “This policy [of increased resources aimed at cyclists] ignores the tiny level of danger actually posed by people cycling to pedestrians relative to the danger posed by motorists to pedestrians.”
The group added: “It’s taking already limited resources away from AGS to police drivers speeding, red-light running, dangerously overtaking.”
The focus of some Galway city councillors on the policing committee for more enforcement of scofflaw cyclists comes the same week that a motorist was convicted of running an amber light in Galway causing life-changing injuries to a student.
The driver was driving over 80km/h in a 50km/h zone before accelerating through an amber light at 97km/h and hitting the man, breaking his leg.
The driver’s defence team highlighted that the man started crossing the road before a green man light was shown and he might not have been hit if he was not looking down at a device in his hand. The driver denied it was her car caught on CCTV before admitting guilt and avoiding a trial — she was given a two year suspended sentence and a 6 year driving ban.
As previously reported by the website, the speed limit in urban areas is exceeded by a large percentage of motorists and often up to 100km/h and above in suburban areas.
“Scofflaw” is a term I don’t believe I have ever heard in my 60+ years, so I had to look up the definition which is “a person who flouts the law, especially by failing to comply with a law that is difficult to enforce effectively”.
I think that term could be more frequently applied to motorists who use combined bus/cycle lanes to overtake on the inside, often at speed, right turning traffic in the general traffic lane. I see it several times a day myself in passing at the Dublin Road/Renmore Park junction in Galway. If a Garda could find the time to spend 30 minutes observing this junction it would be very rewarding in terms of fines and prosecutions for the more extreme examples. This is just one junction but the practice is widespread in Galway.
It is dangerous enough for cyclists sharing the lane with many fast moving buses and taxis without adding “scofflaw motorists”.
I see that’s the definition Google is currently using at the top of search results. But when using it, I would point to the Oxford or Cambridge definitions:
“person who often breaks the law but in a way that is not very serious” or “they refuse to obey the law… by ignoring minor legal regulations”.
I agree with the sentiments of the Green Party councillor. But to change anything, cycling campaigners need to engage with the main parties. And get their comments for articles like this one.