Phil Skelton, a cycling campaigner who founded the ‘Stayin’ Alive at 1.5′ campaign, has been awarded with the ‘Gertie Shields Supreme Award for Road Safety’.
The award was given to Skelton by Minister of State for Transport Hildegarde Naughton at the Road Safety Authority’s Leading Lights in Road Safety awards ceremony.
The Wexford man set up the campaign looking for a 1.5 metre passing distance to be made law in 2013 following motors overtaking him closely soon after he returned from Australia.
Skelton’s campaigning led to the recommendation being put into the Rules of the Road, put up on signage across the country and included in RSA public awareness campaigns.
Unlike Australia, an exact distance of 1.5 metres passing distance has not been adopted here, but Skelton’s campaigning also led to the then transport Minister Shane Ross changing the law in 2019 to have a separate overtaking law for overtaking bicycles which has a higher fine than the normal dangerous overtaking law.
Minister Hildegarde Naughton said: “Congratulations to everyone who received an award today and on behalf of all road users, thank you for your commitment and dedication to making our roads safer. I’d like to particularly commend Phil Skelton for his achievement.”
The RSA said that the ‘Gertie Shields Supreme Award’ is presented to an individual or group for “an innovative and outstanding road safety initiative, or for their leadership and exemplary dedication to the area of road safety.”
She added: “Phil’s efforts to improve road safety and to protect vulnerable road users have made a huge difference right across the country. It really does prove the point that just one person has the power to change the attitudes and behaviour of many.”
The award is named in honour of the road safety campaigner of the same name who passed away in 2015.
Skelton was one of 15 award winners at the ceremony.
Liz O’Donnell, Chairperson of the RSA, said: “Each year, these awards allow us to recognise those who are doing their utmost to keep our local communities safe and educate others on the importance of road safety.”
She added: “I would like to thank all those who nominated individuals, community groups or businesses in this year’s awards, and especially this year’s winners, for their incredible and inspiring work and efforts to make our roads, and in turn, our communities, a safer place for everyone.”
Makes school gates a safer place
In other awards, the Beaumont National School Parents Association won in the category of Sustainable Travel.
The award relates to the action taken to make the campus of the Beaumont Girls’ National School and Scoil Barra Naofa Buachaillí a safer place. Located in an older suburban area of Cork City the area had seen a “significant amount of traffic on a road network that was not built to take it.”
The RSA outlined: “The Parents’ Association set about encouraging parents to park in an alternative location and allowing their children to walk to school. Following the success of this first step, they then introduced a cycle bus to further encourage parents and children to use alternative and more sustainable modes of transport to travel to school. They also successfully lobbied for the installation of bike parking around their school.”
It added: “By working with the local residents’ association, the schools and the local authority, it was also agreed that the road outside the school would be closed to vehicular traffic during school drop-off and pick-up times, thus making the school gate a much safer place for children to walk and cycle to school.”
Public Sector award
The Public Sector award went to Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. The council is “aiming to create a locality that is safe for everyone to walk and cycle and travel to their destination safely and this aim permeates transport, road safety and climate change policy.”
In September the council published its Road Safety Plan 2022-2030, which is one of the first Local Road Safety Plans to be adopted in line with the National Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030. The plan includes 24 actions to help reduce collisions.
The full list of winners can be found at RSA.ie.