Campaigners have expressed concern that there is confusion among Gardai in Dublin about a ‘dangerous passing of cyclists’ law introduced just over a year ago.
As reported in another article today, Phil Skelton, who runs the Staying Alive at 1.5 campaign which led to the law change, said that the national figures are in line with what was seen Australia but he said more action was needed and voiced concern about comments from some Gardai.
He said that comments from the Gardai at the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Joint Policing Committee were worrying and seemed to display some misunderstanding of the legislation. Skelton added: “I would also like to see a mandatory training module developed for Gardai so that everyone is on the same page.”
Bébhinn Murphy, who is the Public Participation Network representative nominated by Dublin Cycling Campaign to the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Joint Policing Committee, said: “I was surprised to learn of a total absence of Fixed Charge Penalty Notice issued or prosecutions initiated in Dublin Metropolitan Region East regarding this new offence which was introduced a year ago to help protect cyclists of all ages on our roads.”
“Of particular surprise is that An Garda Síochána in their written replies view this offence as requiring measurement, which we were told at the time of its introduction is specifically not required,” she said.
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Murphy added: “I believe there is also confusion around whether this is an ‘intercept only’ offence which would require a member of An Garda Síochána to personally observe the close pass or if video evidence can be relied on.”
In a written response to a Joint Policing Committee question submitted by the campaign on the number fines issued, the Gardai said: “The offence of dangerously overtaking of cyclists was introduced in November 2019. Regrettably, it is a particularly difficult offence to prove in Court as An Garda Slochana have no way of measuring the distance between a cyclist and an overtaking vehicle at the time of the alleged offence being committed.”
However, as also reported in our other article today, because of the advice from the Attorney General at the time, the law did not include a measurable distance and instead was left more broad`, mirroring the wording of the general dangerous overtaking law. It states that drivers must not “overtake or attempt to overtake if to do so would endanger or cause inconvenience to a pedal cyclist”.
The local Garda response continued: “The DMR East Division has not issued any Fixed Charge Penalty Notices for the offence of dangerously overtaking a pedal cyclist since the introduction of this Legislation. The Dublin Metropolitan Garda Region has only issued 4 Fixed Charge penalty Notices for this offence since the legislation was introduced.”
The response concluded: “The DMR East Roads Policing Unit receive almost daily ‘Traffic Watch’ complaints from cyclists and each of these various complaints is fully investigated and the conclusion of these complaints results in either the matters being dealt with by Advice, Cautions or Fixed Charge Penalty Notices being issued for other offences being disclosed.”
CASE STUDY: ‘Not enough evidence’ when footage showed bus in the cycle lane as it passed bicycle
In one case this year, a member of the public, Daniel Dunne, reported a close pass to Store Street Garda Station in the DMR North Central Division.
He said the bus driver he reported was about 20cm to his handle bars, with bicycle camera footage of the bus entering the cycle lane he was cycling in but Gardai told him there was not enough evidence.
After reporting the close pass, a Garda at Store Street Garda Station replied to : “Unfortunately there is not enough evidence to sustain a fixed charged penalty notice in this case. The details and footage along with your statement was given to my supervisory Sergeant and he has directed due to insufficient evidence that there will be no further action taken in this incident. Apologies for the bad news.”
This is in line what IrishCycle.com has heard from other members of the public that how seriously reporting of close passes is taken can vary between Garda stations and when individual traffic police or other Gardai process the issue, it is often shot down by senior officers who have to approve prosecutions.