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6 examples of cyclists getting accused of breaking the law when the law supports them

Comment & Analysis: Here’s just six examples: of where cyclists doing normal, lawful and usually safe things are misinterpreted as breaking the law.

(1) Not using “perfectly good” cycle lanes

This is a common one the crops up both online and as texts into radio shows.

There’s no law mandating the use of cycle lanes. There was one and it was repealed because cycle routes aren’t up to scratch for their use to be mandatory and there’s many reasons to avoid them temporarily or otherwise.

The reasons for not using a cycle lane vary, including — the cycle route is rubbishy designed, it has glass on it, illegal parking, a cyclist is turning right and there’s no provision for that on the cycle track, or it’s not suitable for a group of cyclists on a club cycle etc.

Regardless of the reason, you’ll often be told that it was a “perfectly good” cycle lanes — when you ask where this cycle route is, it’s usually quickly clear that the cycle lane in question isn’t that good at all.

(2) Not using a bell

There’s a requirement to have a bell on a non-racing bicycle, but it’s up to the judgment of person cycling to use it depending on the circumstances.

Bell use is more like a fine art than a science is like. And using a bell on a shared path is like forcing Marmite on pedestrians and other cyclists around you — some will love it and some will hate it.

Bell use is really a classic example of you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

(3) Filtering in slow-moving traffic

Filtering past slow-moving traffic is generally perfectly normal, safe and legal. The law was even changed to clarify that cyclists are allowed to overtake on the left as long as they don’t do so when they reasonably that a driver won’t make the turn first.

Caution is needed when filtering but, no, bicycles — and motorcycles — aren’t just small cars. And nobody should expect people cycle to always stop at the back of a line of cars.

(4) Cycling the middle of the lane

Also known as cycling in the “middle of the road” or “taking the primary position”— this is allowed and even was added to the Rules of the Road for clarity.

When someone calls the middle of a lane the “middle of the road” it shows they have a perception issue, but the same people will often deny there’s a good reason to cycle like this.

Another name for this practice is “taking the lane” and there’s many reasons for it, including avoiding car doors of along parked cars, cycling around something blocking a cycle lane while wanting to avoid have a motorist close pass you, or trying to avoid someone overtaking you on a blind bend or blind hill.

The thing you’re cycling out to avoid can often not be seen by a motorist, including a pot hole or broken glass, or a child who might be about to run out. Also see: Why I cycle in the middle of the road and I hate it.

(5) Cycling on shared paths

Cycling paths shared with walking and cycling if often fairly clear, as with the photo above.

In other situation, especially, where there’s short sections of shared paths at junctions cyclists sometimes get accused of being wrong for cycling there. This isn’t as common as the other examples but it happens.

(6) Not wearing high-vis and helmets

There’s no law around the use of high-vis and helmets — you can think that there should be or think that they are a good idea but there’s still no law mandating their use.

A former head of the Road Safety Authority even had to remind politicians looking for mandatory high-vis that “This is not a police state”.

There’s never ending debates over the effectiveness of high-vis and helmets, but even if you think they are effective mandating their use is messy, and likely to be ineffective and/or a huge waste of policing resources.

Wearing helmets and high-vis is not law and unlikely to become law. Anybody feeling the need to push the idea would spend their time better by instead focusing on one of the many measures proven to be more effective from lower speeds to safer infrastructure or more camera enforcement.

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12 comments

  1. Cyclists often have no option but to go down the centre because drivers who intend to turn left, but are stopped at a junction – for some reason that makes zero sense – insist on moving or stopping closer to the pavement, blocking the cycle-lane. It makes no difference to the drivers intended action, but it forces cyclists out and into the middle or outside lane, causing a risk to the cyclist.

    Reply
    • Very good piece, thank you Cian!

      A question on filtering: is the fact that filtering is legal in Ireland articulated in any official/legal source? I have looked for this a while back but did not actually saw specific reference to filtering in the Irish Rules of the Road.
      Thanks

      Reply
      • Page 199 of ROTR says: “When cycling alongside traffic stopped in line, be aware of gaps in the traffic to allow other vehicles to turn across the stationary lane. The view of the car that is turning may be blocked due to the traffic build-up.”

        IMO this implies that cycling alongside stopped traffic (aka filtering) is permitted.

        Reply
  2. Cycling alongside stationary/slow-moving motor traffic is permitted on the inside.
    This was one of the amendments to the Regulations that Cyclist.ie secured from Leo Varadkar, when he was minister for transport.

    Reply
      • Yes it it is in SI No. 332 of 2012:
        (b) A pedal cyclist may overtake on the left where
        vehicles to the pedal cyclist’s right are stationary or
        are moving more slowly than the overtaking pedal
        cycle, except where the vehicle to be overtaken—

        Reply
    • Thank you Mike, very insightful.

      This was before I moved to Ireland, otherwise I would probably have become aware of this at the time. Crazy to think that these changes were made just a short few years ago. No wonder we are still decades behind other countries in the treatment of people using bikes.

      Reply

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