Cyclist.ie, the network for all the cycling campaigns in Ireland, has welcomed the recent ending of the regulation requiring mandatory use of cycle tracks by cyclists. The removal of the obligation was long sought for and was included as Objective 15.4 of the Government’s National Cycle Policy Framework (April, 2009). The changes to the Traffic Regulations were released by the Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar TD in September and became law earlier this month. As acknowledged in the National Cycle Policy Framework, much of the cycling infrastructure constructed in Ireland is of a poor standard and can place cyclists in a dangerous position – such as inside turning HGVs.
Example of ill-designed cycle lane
Dr. Mike McKillen, the Cyclist.ie chair explained: “Cyclists in riding their bike are driving a vehicle, in Irish and international law, and so are entitled to be on all non-motorway roads. However, badly conceived or constructed or maintained cycling facilities often make cycling conditions significantly worse than doing nothing at all. Much of the Irish cycling infrastructure constructed to date is demonstrably not-fit-for-purpose in terms of either utility or recreational cycling. In some cases the biggest obstacles Irish cyclists face on their daily commutes are the cycle facilities.” He continued “the traffic rule coercing cyclists into using poor cycle facilities was viewed as offensive and unworkable”. Cyclist.ie has previously called for a moratorium on the construction of roadside cycle tracks until an appropriate supervisory structure is in place.
The requirement for cyclists to use cycle tracks is now restricted only to situations where they run through pedestrian zones or contra-flow lanes on one-way streets.
The recent legal changes also make it legal for cyclists to pass slower traffic on the left in congested conditions – something that was not provided for in law prior to this. However passing cyclists must yield to turning traffic or vehicles that have pulled in to allow passengers to alight. The new regulations also make mini-traffic lights for cyclists legal (used on Dublin’s new Grand Canal cycleway) and provide for cycling on designated footpaths shared with pedestrians. It has also been made legal for cyclists to use contraflow bus lanes. A key change is the restoration of the duty on drivers to yield to people crossing at zebra crossings – this had been dropped from the previous 1997 traffic regulations. However some apparent anomalies have not been fixed – the regulations still don’t contain a stated requirement for drivers to yield to cyclists if crossing cycle lanes or cycle tracks.
“What is needed now is a publicity campaign to highlight the changes and the reasons for them, to the public. This should be a task for the Road Safety Authority and the Department of Transport” continued Dr. McKillen. Too often in the past new road markings and signage systems were implemented without proper public awareness campaigns.
Cyclists hope that the recent changes represent the start of a more comprehensive review of the traffic regulations. Cyclist.ie has identified a list of legal changes that are required to bring Ireland’s traffic law into line with best international practice and to support the delivery of the National Cycle Policy Framework. Most of these proposals have been with the Minister’s officials since 2008 when Cyclist.ie made a comprehensive submission and have been restated in subsequent contacts. New traffic rules that are needed include.
- Specifying minimum passing distances for faster traffic overtaking cyclists and pedestrians.
- Allowing motorists to cross solid white carriageway marking lines if passing cyclists or pedestrians.
- Regularising the use of rural hard shoulders by cyclists and to define how and when motorists may drive in them.
- Allowing for the creation of local-access only streets and rural roads – this is seen as a key requirement for the creation of a national system of rural cycling routes and green-way networks, so important for eco-tourism.
- Allowing the creation of protected play-streets or “home zones” where children and pedestrians have priority.
- A regulation to impose a specific duty of care on motorists in the presence of children, the elderly or disabled persons.
- A law to regularise the use of foot-ways by child cyclists of primary school ages.
- ROAD TRAFFIC (TRAFFIC AND PARKING) (AMENDMENT) (NO. 2) REGULATIONS 2012, S.I. No. 332
- ROAD TRAFFIC (SIGNS) (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 2012, S.I. No. 331
25 October 2012