— While funding and vision was lacking for cycle networks, outgoing Government failed to implement even law changes which would have cost little.
COMMENT & ANALYSES: A gear change in cycling promotion needs political will, funding, expertise and legal changes. When outgoing transport minister Shane Ross was ever challenged on his record on cycling one of the stand out things he achieved was having an increased fine for dangerously overtaking of cyclists from €80 to €120 and all the awareness around that.
The German Government has just shown how much Shane Ross and the outgoing Irish Government has failed in doing enough to enable cycling.
Ross’s fine increase is welcomed by those who have started to use the legal change to report dangerous overtaking. But it doesn’t look good on its own when compared with the new wide-ranging German regulations (detailed below) which came into force two days ago on Tuesday.
Some might say that the Minister Ross should also get credit for making regulations clearer on the the removal of mandtory use of cycle lanes, given the poor state of Irish cycle tracks. But Ross delayed on that and spent €45,000 of tax payer’s money on research and surveys of what we already had known and what ministers have been told since 1998.
That was not a huge amount of money, but resources would have been better spent on positive changes rather than dealing for longer with a decades old problem that just needed regulations re-written for clarity.
This isn’t to suggest that such legal changes should be the priority in the current crisis — at least not while the lockdown is on-going — but the point is that there was inaction over the lifetime of the outgoing Irish Government. As happened in Germany.
When legal changes are discussed in Ireland, the UK and places like Australia, there’s often mention of having some quid pro quos for cyclists. Instead the German Government seems to have included fun graphics (see below and here).
But even in the UK, once heated debate died down, they managed to implement better guidance on designs for main roads and legal changes which allowed for parallel zebra crossings, which allows for cycling-priority crossings beside zebra crossings.
The German transport ministry outlines that the new regulations include:
A minimum overtaking distance of 1.5 m in urban areas and 2 m out of town for motor vehicles to overtake pedestrians, cyclists and small electric vehicles. Before the stipulation was “adequate lateral spacing”.
- Walking speed for right-turning motor vehicles over 3.5 t in urban areas: For reasons of traffic safety, walking speed (4 to 7, max. 11 km / h ) is prescribed for right-turning motor vehicles over 3.5 t . Violations can be sanctioned with a fine of 70 euros. A point is also entered in the driving suitability register.
- Extending “green arrow” regulation, which allow turning right (our left) on red lights where there is a sign in place so that it applies to cycle paths and that cycling-only “green arrow” signs be allowed.
- Firming up the law on advanced stop lines / boxes so that there is next to zero tolerance.
- Firming up the law on bicycle streets where cycle routes are shared with local car access but cycling has priority.
- Extending the limit on parking near junctions to a distance of 8 meters from the intersection of the edges of the carriageway if there is a cycle path along the road.
- The legal provision for parking areas and loading zones cargo bicycles, including the introduced a special symbol “cargo bike” that councils can use.
- A new road sign to show a ban on overtaking of including bicycles and motorcycles, designed mainly for narrow streets or pinchpoints.
- Extending and simplifying laws which allow authorities to test traffic-regulating or traffic-safe measures for a limited time and place.
- The increased opening of one-way streets for cyclists in the opposite direction (ie contra-flow). The German transport ministry said “the responsible road traffic authorities are to be called upon to examine the possibility of opening one-way streets in the opposite direction for cyclists. The aim is to increase the number of one-way streets released in the opposite direction.”
- Increased fines for illegal parking on footpaths and cycle paths.