— Campaigner says new law “sends a clear signal to drivers that cyclists have a legitimate right to the road”.
— New signage and advertising campaign to “warn motorists to provide for adequate overtaking space for cyclists.”
— I Bike Dublin “suspicious of the timing of the legislation’s announcement”.
— Place on Board of Transport Infrastructure Ireland to be reserved for person with cycling experience.
Transport minister Shane Ross has enacted legislation to increase the fine for dangerously overtaking cyclists.
The law change was promoted as a Government reaction to the Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 campaign run by Phil Skelton.
The existing fine for general dangerous passing of any vehicle is €80 and the new fine for dangerously passing a cyclist is expected to be €120. At the time of writing we were unable to confirm the text of the new legislation.
The legislation change is a compromise after the Government claimed that Attorney General said there were constitutional and practical court issues with a law which would have defined a minimum passing distance. The new law does not define a minimum distance.
“These Regulations provide for an increase in the fixed charge for the dangerous overtaking of cyclists,” said a notice published on Friday on irisoifigiuil.ie, an online version of Iris Oifigiúil which is the Irish State’s gazette for legal announcements.
The full text of the secondary relevant legislation is not yet published on irishstatutebook.ie, but the publication of the notice in Iris Oifigiúil means the law in now in place.
Minister Ross made an announcement to the media on Monday.
The full legal name for legislation is S.I. No. 548 of 2019 — Road Traffic Act 2010 (part 3) (fixed Charge Offences) (amendment) (no. 2) Regulations 2019.
The notice on Iris Oifigiúil states: “The Minister for Transport, Mr. Shane Ross, T.D., has made the above Regulations. These Regulations provide for an increase in the fixed charge for the dangerous overtaking of cyclists.”
Phil Skelton said: “This legislation sends a clear unambiguous signal to drivers that cyclists have a legitimate right to the road and recognises cyclists as legitimate road users.”
“Anyone who cycles knows only too well that there are far too many motorists who simply don’t accept that basic fact and may view people on bicycles as interlopers,” he said. “This legislation makes it clear to cyclists, that motorists are obliged to respect their vulnerability and that should help to reduce their anxiety and increase their confidence to use roads.”
He said: “It can also serve to remind motorists that cyclists are extraordinarily vulnerable to serious injury if they’re in even a minor collision with a car. A mere tip for a motorist can very easily be an incapacitating injury or death for a cyclist.”
Skelton added: “The existing law is no doubt broad enough and flexible enough to give Gardai ample scope to prosecute motorists for passing dangerously close, but it never send that signal loudly enough to cyclists, motorists or Gardai. A specific, well-publicised provision is more likely to get through to the public.”
UPDATED ON MONDAY NOVEMBER 11:
A statement released by the Department of Transport said that law change provides for “an increased fixed charge of €120” as well as three penalty points for offenders.
Minister Ross said: “The law that we are commencing at midnight will target and punish drivers who are guilty of such deadly, dangerous behavior. Equally important is the impact I hope it will have on driver behavior, providing a heightened awareness of the importance of sharing road space in a respectful and safe manner.”
He said: “Too many cyclists have frankly terrifying tales to tell of intimidatingly close passes and near misses. And we are all sadly aware of the worrying numbers of cyclists being killed and injured on our roads, despite a downward trend in road fatalities more generally.”
The statement went on: “The Minister said that his Department, the Road Safety Authority, An Garda Síochána and the Office of the Attorney General have worked closely together to develop a robust, legal mechanism to target drivers who put cyclists at risk in this manner.”
The Department confirmed that the new regulations divide the offence of dangerous overtaking to make it a separate offence to dangerously overtake a pedal cyclist.
Moyagh Murdock, Chief Executive of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) said: “Drivers should always allow safe passing distances for cyclists and should always adjust their behaviour to suit the road environment. This includes slowing down and ensuring you pass cyclists when it’s safe to do so, and critically, giving them the space to ride safe.”
She added: “Drivers need to remember that in the event of a collision a cyclist will always come off worse. The introduction of this new law with tough penalties for drivers who flout it is very timely given that we have tragically lost 9 cyclists in fatal crashes to date in 2019.”
In its press release, the Department said: “The introduction of the new law will be highlighted by the rollout of new signage warning motorists to provide for adequate overtaking space for cyclists. The signage includes providing for a one metre distance overtaking space (in locations with speed limits less than 50km/h) and 1.5 metre distance (where speed limit exceeds 50 km/h). The Road Safety Authority RSA will underpin the introduction of the new law changes through a radio, digital, and outdoor advertising campaign.”
It said: “In addition it will continue to run its TV led campaign which advises drivers to slow down and allow at least one metre overtaking distance when passing cyclists in speed zones up to 50km/hour and at least 1.5 metres when passing at speeds above 50km/hour.”
The statement added: “The Minister also announced that a Public Appointments Service competition will shortly be commenced to appoint four people to the Board of Transport Infrastructure Ireland. The Minister intends reserving one of the posts to an individual with cycling expertise.”
“Suspicious of the timing”
However, one group, I Bike Dublin, said that believes the change is a “minor amendment to existing law” and “a token gesture that will not make life safer for most people who cycle.
The group said that it is “very suspicious of the timing of the legislation’s announcement, given it was first promised in early 2017” and that “the staging of a photo opportunity in the Minister’s own constituency months before an election, illustrates where the Minister’s priorities truly lie.”
“An extra €40 is no deterrent to the small minority of drivers who willfully endanger people who are cycling,” it said in a statement.
I Bike Dublin said: “Minister Ross should spend his very limited remaining time in office, re-adjusting the transport budget to allocate 10% of capital spending on cycling infrastructure projects, rather than the crumb-like 2% he has decided upon. Infrastructure saves lives, not new legislation that will fail to be enforced.”
I Bike Dublin spokeswomen Vanessa Sterry said: “Our die-in in front of the office of the Garda Traffic Department last Friday was to highlight that current enforcement of existing legislation is completely insufficient to keep people who cycle safe from the minority of drivers who behave dangerously on the roads.”
Sterry added: “I BIKE Dublin continues to call for the Gardaí to be equipped and staffed properly and to use evidence-based policing as has been proven to work in other jurisdictions. The West Midlands Police in the UK have pioneered online video portals to enable quick prosecution. New legislation to protect people who cycle is meaningless, without an announcement by Ministers Flanagan and Ross that the Gardaí will use international best practice.”
Change welcomed, infrastructure also wanted
Another campaign group, the Dublin Cycling Campaign said that they welcomed the change but also wanted infrastructure changes.
Kevin Baker, chairman of Dublin Cycling Campaign, said: “The new overtaking law is a step in the right direction and we welcome today’s announcement by Minister Shane Ross. We want cycling to be safe, attractive, and normal for as many people as possible. An Garda Síochána needs to be given the resources to enforce the rules of the road as part of reducing road danger.”
Louise Williams, vice chairwoman of Dublin Cycling Campaign, said: “Improving driver behaviour is important, but it is only a small piece of the overall puzzle. We are also in urgent need of improved cycling infrastructure which physically separates people on bikes from fast-moving motor traffic. Shane Ross and the Department of Transport are the only people who can provide the funding for such infrastructure. We are calling for more funding for cycling as a priority.”