Germany shows how much outgoing Irish Government failed on cycling

— 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.

IMAGE: Germany already had basic cycling-friendly legal measures such as allowing contra-flow cycling on narrow one-way streets without cycle lanes. The guidelines on such in Ireland are unclear which has limited contra-flow without lanes here to just a handful of streets.

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:

  • IMAGE: In Ireland, the lack of cycling-friendly legal changes or guidelines has led to confusing and potentially dangerous situations such has having left-turn filter lanes on cycle paths where green does not mean go, even across a traffic lane.

    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.

 

IMAGE: The regulations in Germany include no overtaking cyclist signs (for pinchpoints or narrow streets), firmer laws on ‘bicycle streets’, signs for long-distance bicycle highways, and signs for bicycle-only turn on right when red traffic lights are shown.

IMAGE: Graphics from the German Government on some of the changes.

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.

4 Comments

  1. Cian, good blog about German legal improvements. Personally I very much welcome this one: “Extending and simplifying laws which allow authorities to test traffic-regulating or traffic-safe measures for a limited time and place”.
    And I guess you are intending to plan for a professional Irish Study Tour to some example German cities, as you successfully did to Dutch towns & cities?

  2. Best stick with The Netherlands for now. Lots to show and lots more people to show it to.

    Outside of the Netherlands, the top of my list would be Ghent (for traffic circulation) or London (for an emerging network with high-quality paths and lots of filtering… and being closer to home in mind as well as distance).

    Give Covid 19, it might be some time yet before there’s a study tour.

  3. When campaigning for improved pro cycling regulations here in Ireland, particularly in meetings with DTTAS personnel I have, over the past 6 years been continually citing the TFL Report from 2014 – http://content.tfl.gov.uk/international-cycling-infrastructure-best-practice-study.pdf – It contains a variety of simple and sometimes difficult suggestions in relation to proposals for safer cycling lehislation.
    There has been a reluctance from DTTAS to engage. Over a period we in Cyclist.ie were banned from meeting staff in the Road safety unit! They engaged on the safe overtaking issue due to public pressure, after a young child was killed in Kilkenny! What does it take to make them move on these issues? The Road safety section in DTTAS needs a complete overhaul!
    Dublin City Council is now leading the way on experimentation and trialling.
    Road safety in DTTAS need to be more transparent in their dealings, and clear on their priorities.

  4. Mike McKillen May 10, 2020 at 9:52 pm

    Agree with Colm Ryder on what he relates about road safety within DTTAS, but the next government needs a minister who understands climate-action and the role that cycling will play in transport system change.
    We have been sold short in so many ways by transport over the decades, but good to say that new thiking is making its way in there.

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