The Government’s new Road Safety Strategy promises to trial allowing cyclists to turn left when facing a red traffic light, and the potential for “presumed liability” for motorists.
The strategy includes a target of reducing deaths on Ireland’s roads by “15% from 144 to 122 or lower” by 2024, by 50% to “72 or lower” by 2030, and zero deaths or serious injuries by 2050.
This morning IrishCycle.com reported how bicycle helmet usage is a “key safety performance indicator” in the strategy. Another of the actions listed in the strategy outlines how there will be a wider review of road traffic policy and legislation to prioritise the safety of walking and cycling.
On turning left on red for cyclists, the strategy promises that the Department of Transport will: “Conduct a pilot (with supporting infrastructure) to examine the feasibility of introducing a ‘cyclist turning left on red’ provision. Take into account best international practice around other cycling priority measures and make recommendations.”
In 2016, a provision to allow people cycling to turn right (the equivalent of our lefthand turn) was made permanent in Denmark after a two-year trial showed the change did not lead to more collisions. This provision however only applies where signs allow for it. A similar measure has been in place in the Netherlands for much longer.
In France — also only at junctions where special signs are displayed — turning right and straight on at the top of T-junctions at red lights was first allowed in Paris as a trial. The trial showed that the measure was safe.
This was then expanded to allow people cycling to travel in all directions on red lights, where it is signposted as allowed. It is up to each local city or town council to decide which junctions are suitable for the treatment.
When the law was changed the Ministry of Ecological Transition, the French Government department responsible for climate transition, released an English version of a video explaining how the measure works and how “contrary to preconceived notions” the measure improves safety:
In another action listed, the Department will “Examine the potential for presumed liability for mechanically propelled vehicles (MPV) drivers in cases of collisions with vulnerable road user’s and make recommendations.”
It is often mistakenly viewed as relating to criminal liability (ie something that the police and courts get involved in), but actually relates only to civil law around the issue of insurance or who deals with costs relating to injury and damages after a collision.
The idea behind presumed liability, which is sometimes referred to as ‘strict liability’, outlines in civil law that the powerful road user is liable by default in the event of a collision unless it can be clearly proven that the less powerful road user was at fault. In other countries, the rule applies to a person cycling and pedestrian as much as it applies to a motorist.
The focus on presumed liability by international cycling campaigners led Mark Wagenbuur, Dutch Cycling Ambassador and creator of BicycleDutch, to write: “It is a myth that is really only believed outside the Netherlands: ‘Because there is strict liability in the Netherlands, drivers are more cautious around cyclists, and that leads to more cycling’.”