Gardai are accused of parking patrol vehicles in cycle lanes while picking up donuts, coffee, and lunch, and now the force has been criticised for continuing such behaviour even after some cycle lanes were recently protected with plastic bollards.
Cycle campaigners also point out that the misuse of cycle lanes by officers is also linked with a indifferent attitude towards enforcement of motorists generally illegally using cycle lanes and new social distancing space for pedestrians.
A number of sources who have spoken to IrishCycle.com in the last year have claimed that they witnessed Gardai officers blocking cycle lanes repeatedly with no evidence of emergencies and witnesses often saying they have seen the officers walk out of shops with coffee or food rolls in their hands.
An apparent hot spot for this is Westland Row in Dublin. Regarding a recent case on the street (pictured above), this website asked the Gardai press office if the force had any comment on the claim that a Garda car was parked partly on a footpath and blocking most of a newly segregated cycle track on Westland Row outside Pearse train station in Dublin to buy donuts at the donuts shop in the station, and we further asked will Garda management be instructing officers set a better example and to avoid parking on footpaths and cycle tracks.
A spokesperson at the Garda press office, on May 13, said: “An Garda Síochána doesn’t comment on third party material or statements made by third parties.”
Since then, on May 21, the official @GardaTraffic twitter account tweeted images of a clear cycle lane on the street with the text: “Dublin Castle Roads Policing Unit conducted a patrol of the new segregated bicycle lane on Westland Row this morning. No breaches detected.”
Dublin Castle Roads Policing Unit conducted a patrol of the new segregated bicycle lane on Westland Row this morning. No breaches detected. pic.twitter.com/NgTLPsPjFB
— An Garda Síochána (@GardaTraffic) May 21, 2020
Despite high-profile figures highlighting the problem in recent years, lack of enforcement is an on-going issue.
Quoting a tweet highlight illegal parking on a cycle lane in 2018, the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, said: “Cycle lanes must be kept clear for cyclists only. Gardai & local authorities must act to enforce the law. I intend convening a meeting with Ministers Ross & @MurphyEoghan to improve matters. This is unacceptable.”
Then at the start of 2019, minister Flanagan told The Times newspaper: “I am concerned that there are continued risks to cyclists on Irish roads. While pleased that there has been an increase in the issuing of fixed charge notices for parking in a cycle track, I am fully aware that more can be achieved to make cycling safer. Roads safety is a collective responsibility, and I would urge the public to be aware of such responsibilities towards other road users, especially vulnerable users such as cyclists.”
Criticism of the force’s lack of enforcement of the law around cycle lanes was also given by Justice Peter Charleton in the third report of the Disclosure Tribunal in 2018.
Justice Charleton wrote: “In undertaking hundreds of journeys between the Four Courts and Dublin Castle during the currency of the tribunal, on only one occasion was there a policeman to stop a taxi or car breaking through a pedestrian light…”
The Judge added: “Other examples include the extent to which cycle lanes, there to protect those cycling for economic, health and environmental motives, who are extraordinarily vulnerable, are simply ignored. Cars block cycle lanes, intrude on them and endanger cyclists. That happens repeatedly within a minute’s walk of garda stations. So, where are the gardaí? Again, this may be dismissed as a small example, but the consequences of serious injury, for even one person, is a tragedy.”
On Twitter, campaign group I Bike Dublin, said that Gardai parking on Westland Row is “always always outside the donut shop. Except when it’s outside Centra [on the same street], who also sell donuts.”
For this article, Stephen McManus, a spokesperson for campaign group I Bike Dublin, said: “There’s a problematic culture towards cyclists in An Garda Síochána. This is made visible through officers’ behaviour, frequent obstruction of lanes by officers on non-duty related errands and acceptance of illegal parking on lanes.”
He said: “There’s an obvious gap in acceptance of responsibilities between An Garda Síochána and Local Authorities when it comes to enforcement of illegal and dangerous parking, resulting in poor driver behaviour reaching crisis point. An Garda Síochána is guilty of a failure to act with the consistency and frequency necessary for it to be a deterrent to poor behaviour.”
“If we want to achieve modal shift [from cars to bicycles], we need An Garda Síochána to be on-board with the message that people cycling have a right to be on the road and deserve the protection of the law,” said McManus.
“All of our members have reported illegal parking to the Gardai, including Gardaí on the beat and formal reports at a Garda station. While there have been some positive outcomes, It is far more common for the Garda in receipt of the report to be actively dismissive, than to indicate action will be taken,” he said.
McManus added: “It has come to the point where people are not even bothered reporting these offences to the Gardai because of the time-consuming nature of the reporting system and the likelihood that it won’t be taken seriously.”
When posting on twitter about the photograph, another campaign group, Dublin Commuter Coalition, said: “We would appeal to your humanity at this stage. This happens all the time and there is quite literally no way for us to report it. The design and purpose of a segregated cycle lane is to keep users safe by taking them out of heavy traffic.”
“By blocking the lane and forcing them into traffic you have put them in danger This might have been fine before this pandemic when most cyclists were confident and able bodied. But there has been a massive increase of children cycling in the city. Please. PLEASE. Say something,” the group said.
Dublin Commuter Coalition added: “All we’re asking for is a bit of common sense. As a public transport advocacy group, we’re literally telling you to please block the bus lane instead, better yet the general traffic lane. But by blocking the cycle lane you’re inconveniencing and endangering people. And it’s just not okay. Please stop.”
Garda cars and vans parked in the cycle lane on Westland Row:
How many fucks does @GardaTraffic give about policing cycle lanes?
That's three vans parked in the cycle lane on #WestlandRow. Garda car arrives, parks behind them, puts the hazards on, and the officer goes to Centra to buy his lunch.#FreeTheCycleLanes pic.twitter.com/muWpi91emH
— Ronald Vallenduuk (@vallenduuk_ie) November 15, 2019
Garda van stopped blocking the entire cycle lane outside @OffbeatDonuts on Westland Row this morning. Official Garda business? Better options than Centra? Thanks Paddy for sharing. https://t.co/AN2rP4tOPf pic.twitter.com/N8yWI3OL9T
— I BIKE Dublin (@IBIKEDublin) October 31, 2019
Received a short time ago with the following description: "Two members get out and head into Centra on Westland Row. Both shopping for refreshments."
— I BIKE Dublin (@IBIKEDublin) April 16, 2018
I guess when it’s your lunch you are picking up you can park where you want. A Garda van blocks a bicycle lane on Westland Row while the two Garda get their lunch rolls from Centra, then threaten a homeless man with arrest if he doesn’t move away. Arrogant attitude! @GardaTraffic pic.twitter.com/7becyNrqte
— Karl Hayden (@Khayden2412) October 1, 2019
An example parked close to a junction in Stoneybatter outside a centre:
Pic 1: Parking in the general lane of oncoming traffic, but not endangering vulnerable road users by blocking the bike lane.
Pic 2: Everyone can go to hell, I'll suit myself. pic.twitter.com/TXkChSmbq9
— Joan (@clicky_here) May 17, 2020
EDITED: This article was edited after publication to include better formatting, more tweet-embedded images and correct grammatical errors.