You can cycle in the “centre of the road”, says revised Rules of the Road

People on bicycles can take the “primary position” and cycle in “centre of the road”, the Road Safety Authority has made clear in a revised edition of the Rules of the Road.

“Rider road positioning – A small victory,” said Phil Skelton of the Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 campaign, in a Tweet.

He added: “For the first time ever, we see cyclist road positioning referred to in the latest edition of the Rules of the Road. The @RSAIreland promised to do this following our email & recent meeting.”

The updated Rules of the Road states: “Correct road positioning will allow a cyclist to move safely and competently on the road network. Drivers should be aware that cyclists may need to change direction from the normal secondary position on the road (left side of the road) to a more primary riding position (centre of the road).

It said people cycling can take this position “in order to”, for example: “get the best view of the road and junctions ahead; increase visibility for approaching traffic, especially where a driver’s view may be blocked; and turn left or right, enter a roundabout, change lanes or approach a bend.”

It adds: “Before changing position on the road, cyclists should ‘look, signal in good time and look again’ to ensure that it is safe to proceed. Where a cyclist is not confident in taking up the ‘primary’ position, it may be safer to get off the bike and cross the roadway on foot where it is safer. Drivers, always check and give extra space to cyclists, as they may need to change position to safely avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles.”

COMMENT & ANALYSES:
One small step for the RSA, when one giant leap is needed

The Road Safety Authority has a poor record on policy and communications on cycling safety (see below links for examples).

Relating to road positioning, the term “centre of the road” is usually a phrase used by angry motorists to describe people legally cycling in the centre of traffic lanes. This follows from previous case where a cycling campaigner said that the RSA’s description of cyclists “weaving” is too vague and often used by motorists complaining about cyclists who are filtering, which is legal.

The level of emotional wording of fear aimed at people who cycle in the Rules of the Road — for example, “As a cyclist, you are a vulnerable road user and your bicycle will not protect you if there is a crash” and “Carrying children on bicycles exposes them to the dangers of the road” — is worrying and not matched stark wording to motorists.

Irish motorists continue to run red lights at an alarming rate — injuring many and killing up to 2 people a year in recent years. But the section on traffic lights is stronger towards cyclists than motorists. This is one of many examples where the RSA are governed by emotional feedback rather than evidence-based policy.

But the RSA’s issues are far from just subjective ones.

A point within the cycling section says “You must obey the rules of the road”, when it means you must obey the Road Traffic Acts. The Rules of the Road is just the RSA’s interpretation. The RSA has even previously shown interpretations which contradict the Department of Transport.

The RSA continues to confuse issues. On the use of cycle tracks, it says “The table below sets out particular road traffic rules on cycling which you must obey” and then it states: “Do cycle on cycle tracks where they are provided.” Unless somebody has found another “issue” with the cycle track law, the mandtory use of cycle tracks has been revoked and this line is wrong.

The same section states: “Don’t ever cycle against the flow of traffic on one-way streets” — at best, this lacks clarity that cycle against the flow of traffic on one-way streets is allowed by law when signs allow it or in contra-flow cycle or bus lanes.

Overall, the Rules of The Road is a mess of a document — from poor section breakdown and ‘Rules’ in the name when more than half of it is guidelines, not rules. In formatting and style the booklet differs too much (I’m guessing due to updates over years).

The document is supposed to be for all road users but it’s mostly written aimed at motorists and learner drivers. It’s trying to be all things to all people and doing a bad job at it.

As mentioned, the “Rules for cyclists” is more so guidelines than rules. Buried within the “Rules for cyclists” section is “Rules on cycle tracks for other road users”, while other sections which seem to be aimed at motorists have guidelines aimed at cyclists.

The new point on positioning for people cycling is followed by a contradictory point of “Make sure you keep to the left.” Then a few points further down it says: “Keep clear of the kerb – riding clear will make you more visible and help
reduce unsafe overtaking.” This is sloppy.

There is a fix for a lot of the problems — rules for all road users should be covered generally and rules for different road users are covered in their named sections, including motorists.

But this won’t follow fundamental issues with policy which isn’t based on evidence and too often isn’t even based on the law or has more respect for its guidelines than the law.

In one section on cycling and visibility, the RSA mentions high-vis vests and sticking some kind of stickers onto your bicycle, but it fails to mention legally mandatory reflectors.

High-vis and helmets are in the RSA’s minds key but there little or questionable backing for these. That’s not just cycling campaigners who have said such, people involved with scientific research and measuring risk have poured cold on the benefits of helmets.

The RSA as an institution seems to have at least an unhealthy relationship with cycling. Has it any interest in addressing the issue?

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

6 Comments

  1. Thanks for this excellent critique of Rules of Road.
    It’s just a pity the RSA didn’t engage with Cyclist.ie in the redrafting of the advice.

  2. ——–

    “Carrying children on bicycles exposes them to the dangers of the road” — is worrying and not matched stark wording to motorists.
    ——–

    Obviously, one can say something like “Choosing to make a journey by car, even if you are a careful driver, exposes others to the dangers of motorised transport, as well as life-shortening pollution.”

  3. Barry Fitzgerald August 9, 2019 at 7:59 am

    Cyclists should have to have some kind of insurance if they have the right to use the roads in the same Manor as motorist’s

  4. Hi Barry — under common law, cyclists and pedestrians already have the right to use the road. Motorists do not have any right to use the road. Motorists are only allowed to use the road under licence.

    Motorists are licenced and insured because of the huge amount of damage to life (death and injury) and property (damage to other cars etc, walls, buildings, street furniture, signs etc, and even trams and trains) caused by motorists.

    No country has licencing or mandtory insurance for cyclists — trying to implement such would be a begrudgery tax which non-cyclists would end up paying for as much as cyclists.

  5. I think it is worth remembering that the RSA is funded through the monetisation of activities associated with car culture and car dependency. They administer the NCT, DOE testing, driver licensing etc They are funded through the money generated from these activities. The RSA has a direct financial interest in maintaining and increasing current levels of car use and car dependency.

    In the context of vulnerable road users, the logic of the RSA’s structure is like setting up a lung cancer prevention program and then putting a tobacco company in charge of it. They make money directly out of that which is the main cause of deaths.

  6. Road safety promotion in this country has always had an unhealthy relationship with those who benefit from motoring and traffic.
    The previous iteration of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) was the National Safety Council (NSC). That was part-funded by the motor insurance business and its board had representatives from the insurers and the Automobile Association (AA Ireland) sitting on it.
    We need a new approach to managing road safety. Vision-Zero must be its modus operandi.

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