Explainer: What is the law on overtaking cyclists in Ireland?

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: The law was changed in 2019 to separate out the offence of dangerous overtaking of a cyclist (or pedal cyclist, as is the legal term).

Beyond all the required legalese (see full legislation below), this is the key part of the legislation:

“(1) (a) A driver shall not overtake or attempt to overtake if to do so would endanger or cause inconvenience to a pedal cyclist.

(b) A driver shall not overtake or attempt to overtake if to do so would endanger or cause inconvenience to a person other than a pedal cyclist.”.

It is broad in scope

The offence covers not just overtaking but also any failed attempt at overtaking. It covers not just endangering but also inconvenience (ie making the cyclist feel like they have to pull their brake or swerve).

Gardai might be less likely to act on the inconvenience part of the law, but this lower bar within the offence should be an incentive act where motorists have endangered cyclists, ie put them at increased risk.

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No contact or injury is required

To endanger means to put at increased risk. Injury is not required to report or prosecute the offence.

There’s no distance to prove

The law change happened in response to the Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 safe passing distance campaign. But it is very important to stress that the 2019 law does mention a distance and no distance needs to be proven to report or prosecute motorists. There is some confusion around this when there should be none.

It is a Penalty Points Offence

The Department of Transport confirmed it is a Penalty Points Offence when it changed the law. Then the Road Safety Authority confirmed it further when it updated its list of Penalty Points and Fixed Charges in 2019 to include a listing for “Dangerous overtaking of a cyclist” with 3 points and the fixed charge fine is €120.

If unsuccessfully challenged in court the points increase to 5 and the fine to €180.

Offences can be reported and prosecuted using witness or video evidence

Like the general dangerous overtaking offence the dangerous overtaking of a cyclist offence can be reported and prosecuted using witness or video evidence. There is no requirement in law for Gardai to have witnessed the event.

This website has reported on a number of cases where video footage was used and IrishCycle.com knows of cases where such footage was used in court too.

How do you report a close pass?

See this separate article from last year: How to report a ‘dangerous overtaking of a cyclist’ incident.

Full statutory instrument

This is a copy of the full law, Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) Regulations 2019, as published on Irishstatutebook.ie:

S.I. No. 495 of 2019
ROAD TRAFFIC (TRAFFIC AND PARKING) (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 2019

Notice of the making of this Statutory Instrument was published in “Iris Oifigiúil” of 4th October, 2019.

I, Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, in exercise of the powers conferred on me by sections 3 and 35 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 (No. 7 of 1994) and the National Roads and Road Traffic (Transfer of Departmental Administration and Ministerial Functions) Order 2002 ( S.I. No. 298 of 2002 ) (as adapted by the Transport (Alteration of Name of Department and Title of Minister) Order 2011 ( S.I. No. 141 of 2011 )), hereby make the following regulations:

(1) These Regulations may be cited as the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) Regulations 2019.

(2) The Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 to 2018 and these Regulations may be cited together as the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 to 2019.

These Regulations come into operation on 12th November, 2019.

In these Regulations “Principal Regulations” means the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 ( S.I. No. 182 of 1997 ).

Article 10 (as amended by the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2012 ( S.I. No. 332 of 2012 )) of the Principal Regulations is amended by the substitution of the following for paragraph (1):

(1) (a) A driver shall not overtake or attempt to overtake if to do so would endanger or cause inconvenience to a pedal cyclist.

(b) A driver shall not overtake or attempt to overtake if to do so would endanger or cause inconvenience to a person other than a pedal cyclist.”.

GIVEN under my Official Seal,

02 October, 2019.

SHANE ROSS,

EXPLANATORY NOTE
(This note is not part of the Instrument and does not purport to be a legal interpretation.)
These Regulations separate out the dangerous overtaking of a pedal cyclist and the dangerous overtaking of a person other than a pedal cyclist.

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