Kerry Cycling Campaign welcomes the introduction by Minister Shane Ross of new laws designed to improve safety for people who cycle on Irish roads which come into force today (12th of November).
The new laws will focus specifically on motorists who overtake cyclists dangerously and will result in steeper penalties for drivers than the existing laws for dangerous overtaking.
The announcement comes as a result of a long, dedicated safety campaign by Wexford man Phil Skelton, whose Staying Alive at 1.5 campaign aimed to create a specific safe overtaking distance for cyclists. While Minister Ross’ original safe overtaking distance law was ultimately rejected by the Attorney General, the new Dangerous Overtaking of a Cyclist law is a compromise.
Like all road safety legislation enforcement is key. An Garda Síochána need the means and will to enforce. Greater resources both physical and digital may be needed.
Police forces in nearby jurisdictions, such as West Midlands Police in the UK, frequently run “Close Pass” operations where police officers on bicycles target drivers who overtake them too closely.
In addition to active policing operations, we hope the new legislation will result in Gardaí being more willing and able to accept video footage from cyclists who have been overtaken dangerously. Many people who cycle, especially those who commute by bike, have started recording their journeys on helmet- or bike-mounted cameras, usually as a result of frequent near-miss incidents.
Keith Phelan, Chairperson of Kerry Cycling Campaign, says: “The new overtaking law is a small step in the right direction. We want cycling to be safe, attractive, and normal for as many people as possible. The people this law seeks to protect are your children, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers going about their day and not just large groups of club cyclists. An Garda Síochána needs to be given the resources to enforce the rules of the road as part of reducing road danger.
“Anluan Dunne, of Kerry Cycling Campaign, says: “Improving driver behaviour is important, but it is only a small piece of the overall puzzle. We need a change in narrative from the media, from politicians and from the government to do away with commentary that pits drivers against cyclists in an adversarial way.
We are also in urgent need of improved cycling infrastructure which physically separates people on bikes from fast-moving motor traffic. Shane Ross and the Department of Transport are the only people who can provide the funding for such infrastructure. The allocation in the recent land transport budget was around 2% while the government’s own recommendation stated 10%. We are calling for more funding for cycling as a priority.”