Threatening cyclist with prosecution after reporting motorist’s close pass is part of policing “strategy”, says law lecturer

A lecturer of policing said that a case where yet another Irish cyclist was threatened with prosecution for reporting a motorist close passing them is part of a “strategy which police use to dissuade complainants”.

Cian Ó Concubhair, a lecturer of criminal, law, policing, and criminology at Maynooth University also said that touching a van as it passes “dangerously and unlawfully” is not criminal damage.

He was reacting to a video posted on Twitter after Gardai in Limerick refused to prosecute a close-passing motorist.

Aidan Hogan, the Limerick-based cyclist who posted the video, said: “Garda who rang couldn’t offer a single reason to support the decision [of no prosecution] other than to say it wasn’t their decision, but the Inspector’s.”

It has been a recurring theme from cyclists reporting close passes that, even when rank-and-file officers see a criminal issue worth at least fining, they are overruled by their senior officers.


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Hogan added: “Was, however, able to advise me against touching vehicles, due to a risk of a criminal damage charge.”

He told this website that that was said to him by Gardai was “very thinly veiled”.

In his video, the van driver closely overtakes Hogan around a point in the road where there are speed humps with gaps, only to join a line of cars very closely ahead.

Ó Concubhair said: “Touching a van that’s passing dangerously and unlawfully close to you does not constitute criminal damage under the 1991 Act.”

“Strategies police use to dissuade complainants from pushing police to bring legit prosecutions often include threatening the complainant with prosecution,” he said.

This is also in line with the IrishCycle.com survey on close pass reporting which found that, among survey responses, Gardai tried to deter cyclists from reporting 51% of close passing by motorists.

Being threatened with prosecution is a less common but recurring issue within the attempts to dismiss and dissuade reporting.

In 2021, John Grace, a Cork businessman who posts under the name @righttobikeit, has previously outlined how he was fined for “cycling without reasonable consideration” after reporting what he viewed as a motorist deliberately intimating him with their SUV. In another case it is understood that he was threatened with a fine but never received it.

Reponding to this at the time, Galway TD and former Government minister Ciaran Cannon said: “This really poor decision making by some members of @GardaTraffic @gardainfo needs to stop now. It has the potential to make our roads and streets even more dangerous for cyclists.”

Former transport Minister Shane Ross, in 2019, changed the close passing law to separate out the offence of dangerous overtaking of a cyclist from the general dangerous overtaking offence — no contact or injury is required to be in breach of the law, and there’s no distance to prove.

The offence carries 3 penalty points and the fixed charge fine is €120, the number of points is the same but the fine is higher than the general dangerous overtaking law.

‘Stayin’ Alive at 1.5′ founder Phil Skelton, who in December received an award from the Road Safety Authority for his work in the area of dangerous overtaking of cyclists, said around the same time: “Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 called for a mandatory training module for rank and file Gardaí prior to the introduction of this legislation and we have seen no evidence of this to date.”

Skelton added: “We often get reports of Gardaí being unaware of this legislation and that is clearly problematic in terms of specific enforcement and of hit-and-miss awareness and subsequent and predictable post-code lottery situations. We certainly need to see a renewed focus in the New Year.”

6 comments

  1. Thanks again Cian for highlighting this continuing and very troubling issue of senior garda officers in a station dismissing clear video evidence of a driver overtaking a bike user too close, which at the very least should have invoked the ‘dangerous overtaking of a pedal cyclist’ regulation of SI No. 495 of 2019.
    Cyclist.ie is due to meet with Assistant Commr. Hilman of the Garda RPU fairly soon and the issue will be an agenda item.

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  2. Every day of every week, not only do motorists come incredibly close to my bike but fequently then either glare at me or beep their horn as if I have committed, what is clearly their criminal offence. The bect “training” in this area is fr Guardai to be given a bike, and told to cycle to work for month (out of uniform).

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    • @Paul – ideally Gardai should be given small bikes with heavy panniers and there should be a gender distribution. I don’t know if some strapping lad in their twenties will even, out of uniform, have a good sense of what it’s like to be less stable and able while cycling, with the added sensitivity to loud / sudden noise that comes when one enters one’s mid-50s.

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  3. It’s all about the cyclists, they have no identity to even get them. I was entering a yellow box from the lefthand side of the road to get across the road all traffic was stopped (vans bus’s and cars). I was across the road when a cyclists hit the rear of my car. No they didn’t stop at yellow box travelling on the inside of traffic. I stopped and they processed to get on their bike and cycle off leaving me with a big ding in my car and the bill. Only to find out later they accused me and had my insurance details off my windscreen which I knew nothing about only to receive a letter that a claim had been put in. Like us all it’s the tax of our cars that is paying for cycle path. Anyone on a propelled instrument (bike) should pay towards the use of roads and be identified.

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    • Little of what you’re saying makes any sense — you’re complaining cyclists cannot be identified, yet the cyclist which you’re talking about identified himself by making a claim… none of that makes sense and we’re only getting your side of the story, I’d be interesting to hear from the cyclist.

      Cyclists are just as identifiable as pedestrians, with the addition of the description of their bikes. The reason motorists are identifiable is level of harm, death and property damage they cause.

      And you’re not even giving much detail…. Was he crossing the road in front of you? In that case, you crossed over where the cyclist was cycling g and a yellow box doesn’t give you a right of way, even if a driver yielded to you have to make sure the way is clear of cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians.

      Re tax, first tax has nothing to do with motorists behaving badly and I don’t know why you’re mentioning it in that context here.

      Secondly, most tax for cars is based on the damage done by that car, ie emission based taxes. You’re paying because you’re polluting.

      You might not agree with funding cycle lanes but most people do and most cyclists are also motorists. Providing for cycling is the policy of all main-stream political parties in Ireland.

      And cycle paths aren’t just for cyclists, they are for everyone to use, including yourself. If you or anybody doesn’t want to use a library, footpath pitch, a park, a motorway, a footpath or cycle path, that’s up to you or each individual. But taxes are collectively gathered and spent on the greater good. Your real issue here which you won’t say is that you’re undervaluing cycling.

      There’s also no such thing in road traffic law as “propelled instruments”. There’s Mechanically Propelled Vehicles, but bicycles aren’t counted as mechanically propelled as they need the user to keep cycling.

      Cyclists do pay tax, as I already mentioned, most are motorists too. Maybe they should actually get a refund for the days they leave their car at home?

      Overall nobody is going taxing cycling because it’d be a very, very silly thing to do. As I said, most parties and most people want more cycling.

      You should probably think a bit harder why you’re so bitter about this.

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  4. Anne is attempting to divert the issue with in a classic Red Herring issue.The (apparently injured) cyclist knew better to enter into a row, because he’d be accused of starting the row.

    But cars simply refuse to adhere to the distance laws. Cars threaten cyclists all day every day (and they break lights much more than cyclists too) but get away with both.

    Cian makes very fair & reasonable comments above. I think Mia’s point above is excellently made also. Not all cyclists are musclebound Triathletes in their prime. Many cant walk very well due to arthritis or other challenges and they cycle because cycling is easier on their joints. Thus all cyclists are vulnerable to Cars but some cyclists are particularly so.

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