Myths: Law breaking

NOTE: For all of those who read between the lines and see what’s not there, please note: Nothing in this article condones law breaking by anybody. Discussing disproportionality as done below does not equal supporting an ‘they do it, so we can do it’ justification.

There’s a perception that cyclists break the law disproportionately compared to other road users, but any regular cyclist will often encounter motorists breaking the law by blocking (solid white lined) cycle lanes, clearways and advance stop lines at junctions.

But we don’t have to rely on cyclists’ experiences, survey after survey shows that it’s a myth cyclists break the law while only few motorists do the same. For example, the RSA’s 2011 speed survey, Free Speed Survey 2011, shows that:

  • 82% of car drivers surveyed exceeded the 50km/h limit on urban national roads, a marginal decrease of one percentage point on 2009 figures; 53% of these drivers exceeded the speed limit by 10km/h or more;
  • The percentage of cars exceeding the speed limit on urban arterial roads (in 50km/h zones) increased from 68% in 2009 to 77% in 2011.
  • 62% of all articulated trucks observed on rural roads were speeding (ie driving at a speed greater than 80km/h). Articulated vehicles are subject to an 80 km/h speed limit on rural roads;
  • 66% of all single deck buses observed on rural roads were speeding (ie driving at a speed greater than 80km/h); On the motorways and dual carriageways the average free speed was higher than the 80 km/h permitted for such a vehicle.

One survey found 90% of motorists were breaking the 30km/h zone in Dublin City Centre. Autobiz.ie reported last year that “A Continental Tyres traffic speeding survey along Dublin’s city centre quays, found that less than 10% of motorists were obeying the 30km/h speed limit.” The Sunday Tribune put that even higher. It reported: ”Almost 97% of motorists in Dublin city are breaking the controversial new 30kmph speed limits.”

According to an AA survey last year 53.8% of motorists surveyed “admitted to using a handheld mobile phone at least occasionally while driving.” Another survey by the AA found that “almost half (45%) of drivers [surveyed] have stopped on the hard shoulder of a motorway to make or receive a call.”

Elsewhere, Google Street View shows countless cars parked on footpaths on streets and in housing estates around Dublin and the rest of Ireland.