Tag Archives: Behaviour&Legal

Any legal or Gardai related issue; also road user behaviour: cyclists, motorists & pedestrians

We can do this!

Jo Sachs Eldridge from Leitrim Cycling Campaign and Cyclist.ie’s Executive Committee has penned this piece on the proposed speed reductions announced by the Minister last week, and how in particular they relate to rural roads.

At Velo-city[i], the international cycling conference, some years ago I tracked down speakers of many nations to quiz them about their rural roads – did theirs look like ours, did they have similar widths, volumes of traffics, speeds, could they help me demonstrate that the concept of ‘Rothar Roads’[ii] could work. The Swiss said no, the Austrians said no, the Slovenians said no, the French said no…and then I spoke to the Danish and they said yes! They said ‘we have roads like that and it works’ but then she laughed and said ‘but of course we have a different culture of driving in Denmark’.

As she saw it, that difference in driving culture was a fact.

And she’s right but maybe it doesn’t always have to be that way.

I went to a school where kids were regularly hit by teachers. Not so long ago you might have found yourself in a restaurant with people smoking at the next table. And driving home after a few too many drinks down the pub was the norm. All of these are almost unthinkable now.

Although there are some things that seem to be sewn into the fabric of our damp souls, we in Ireland do culture change well. That’s one of the strengths of this country. We are willing to learn new behaviours, adopt new attitudes, change our perspective.

I have huge hopes for the reduction in speed limits on our urban areas and rural roads. We probably all instinctively know that 80kph is not the appropriate speed to travel on those narrow, bendy roads with limited visibility. We know this yet we are sometimes confused by the signs we see as we enter such a road environment – the 80kph speed limit standing proud. Somewhere in our brain we think maybe it is ok. Yet the collision rates and road death statistics tell a very different story. In 2022 73% of road fatalities occurred on a rural road[iii]. This is not acceptable. The numbers of road deaths in any rural or urban area are not acceptable.

The speed reductions are not the answer, of course. As with many complex problems there is no one answer. But this is one huge step towards creating a very different kind of public space.

Some years ago, as part of the ‘Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland’[iv], the Rural Cycling Collective called for changes on our rural L roads, our “Rothar Roads” as we call them. We know that in many road and street environments we need new infrastructure to create safe, segregated spaces for people on bicycles. We also know that the creation of segregated spaces on our narrow rural roads is often not feasible. Yet we also know those same rural roads already create an almost perfect cycling network.

So often these L roads have low motor traffic volumes, have smooth running surfaces, are often lined with beautiful bio-diverse hedgerows and crucially already connect us to where we want to go. What makes them less than perfect is the culture of driving – inappropriate speeds, particularly on blind bends, overtaking without allowing for safe passing distances, driving with the assumption there will be no one else on the road.

The proposed speed reductions are, I believe, the start of a new culture of driving in Ireland. The start of the creation of an environment where people walking and cycling on our rural roads really are ‘expected and respected’.

And I say this, not just as an optimist but as someone who has observed so many changes in our culture over the years.

I know we can do this.


[i] https://ecf.com/projects/velo-city

[ii] Rothar-Roads_Discussion-Paper_April-2022_Cyclist.ie_040622-compressed.pdf

[iii] 13% rise in road deaths recorded in 2022 (rsa.ie)

[iv] What is Cyclist.ie’s Rural Vision? – Cyclist.ie – The Irish Cycling Advocacy Network

With thanks to Joan Swift, Sligo Cycling Campaign and Damien Ó Tuama, Cyclist.ie National Cycling Coordinator, for their inputs on an earlier draft.

Cyclist.ie Meeting with An Garda Síochána Assistant Commissioner

A delegation from Cyclist.ie was delighted to meet with An Garda Síochána Assistant Commissioner Paula Hilman and her staff earlier today (Wed 5th April 2023) in Dublin. Assistant Commissioner Hilman’s area of responsibility is Roads Policing and Community Engagement, so there was plenty for us to discuss.

The Cyclist.ie delegation comprised Neasa Bheilbigh (Chairperson of Cyclist.ie), Dave Tobin (Vice-Chair), Conor Cahill (Dublin Cycling Campaign) and Dr. Damien Ó Tuama (National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie and An Taisce), while the AGS team comprised the Assistant Commissioner, Jane Humphries (Chief Superintendent in the National Roads Policing Bureau), and Sergeant Sinéad Downey.  All are pictured below (bar Sergeant Downey).

Overall it was extremely valuable for Cyclist.ie to be able to share some of our members’ experiences of road danger issues such as close overtaking, illegal car parking on footpaths, and speeding which, collectively, lead to so many people not feeling safe cycling in Ireland – as reported, for example, by The Journal in this article (from 2018). We also began to discuss some of the interventions, policies and enforcement practices advanced in other jurisdictions where cycling levels are much higher and where more children travel to and from school on their own due to better quality infrastructure and enforcement practices. 

Additionally, we stressed how much the wider public benefits from more and more people cycling even if an individual does not cycle him or herself – with the benefits accruing from improved air quality, reduced congestion and less noise pollution. And at a population level, we know that physical activity like walking and cycling has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease as well as cancer, and is recognised as having a positive effect on managing conditions like depression and Parkinson’s – as set out by the Irish Heart Foundation here

We wish to thank the Assistant Commissioner and her team for their time in meeting with Cyclist.ie and we look forward to continuing the conversations in the near future. Ultimately we look forward to helping to improve walking and cycling conditions for the benefit of everyone who currently cycles and those who would love to cycle but are dissuaded by the existing hostile conditions felt on streets and roads in communities and neighbourhoods throughout the country. 

We note here that this meeting with AGS follows on from a recent constructive meeting with senior personnel in the Road Safety Authority on the topic of cyclist safety. These engagements with state bodies are part of a wider suite of work, with much of it carried out behind the scenes, conducted by Cyclist.ie – all with the aim of “celebrating, advocating for, encouraging and enabling everyday cycling as a means of travel and as a way to secure many health, societal, economic and environmental gains, as well as it being an enjoyable activity in its own right” as per our mission statement.

Removing and Replacing 80km/h Signs on Certain Rural Roads

Like you, we have questioned the existence of 80km/h speed limit signs on many of our rural roads. And it turns out that guidance already exists to remove or replace many of them. 

We have put together a short document setting out what the guidance says, why we think this matters and what else we think should be done. 

We hope that this document might help in ensuring the guidance is followed across the country. 

Simply removing and replacing 80km/h signs is not the solution. We know that. 

But we also know that each of these small acts contributes to creating a safer and more attractive road environment for all. 

And that is, we believe, always worth doing. 

The document is available to read and download here.

And you can email Jo Sachs Eldridge on [email protected] if you want to help out on this topic or if you have any questions on it.  

Campaigners Address Road Safety Authority Conference

Cyclist.ie supported advocates from the Love 30 campaign who addressed Ireland’s Road Safety Authority annual conference last Wednesday.

Mairéad Forsythe and Justin Fleming shared the final speaking slot of the day-long conference. They jointly made the case for having 30 km/h as the default speed limit for all of our towns, villages and urban areas. The theme of the conference was ‘Tackling Speeding – Risk Factors and Interventions’.

Rod King MBE, who has been a great supporter of the Love 30 campaign over the years, also spoke. Rod has played an instrumental role in empowering local communities in the UK to implement 30km/h speed zones. The UK version of the campaign is ‘20’s Plenty for Us’.

On enforcement, Minister of State for Transport Hildegarde Naughton opened the conference with the announcement of a doubling, that very night, of fines for speeding and many other offences such as using a mobile phone while driving. Before this, speeding attracted a minimal €80 fine. No graduated increases apply for higher speeds.

Among the other speakers, Dr Judy Fleiter, Global Manager with the Global Road Safety Partnership, discussed the motivations for speed choices on the road. Guro Ranes, Director of Road Traffic Safety, Norwegian Public Roads Administration talked about Norway’s approach in tackling speeding with a particular focus on graduated speeding. Fines for dangerous speeding there are much more realistic, but don’t take Finland’s approach of being linked to the offender’s income level.

Senior Gardaí also addressed the conference, describing new technologies now available to the Roads Policing corps such as speed guns for patrol cars linked to automatic number-plate recognition. It’s to be hoped these technologies will be rolled out quickly and used widely so we can catch up with international best practice, but a timeline for this wasn’t clear. The appallingly widespread offences of driving and parking in bus lanes and cycle lanes were not addressed, and unfortunately question time didn’t allow for queries on this. It’s something the Campaign will work hard on in the coming year. Addressing car-dominated viewpoints that fail to prioritise the needs of vulnerable road users – never mind the environment – in official circles and culture is a high priority.

Closing the day, RSA Director Michael Rowland welcomed the Love 30 proposals and indicated that the Authority would support a national default 30 km/h limit. Needless to say we’ll be tracking whether RSA backs up these words with actions.

For more on campaigns for lower and safer speed limits in built-up areas, see:

https://www.love30.ie/
https://www.20splenty.org/

Cyclist.ie Demands an Immediate Response to Deaths and Serious Injuries on Rural Roads

The provisional figures published on the 26th of July 2021 by The Road Safety Authority (RSA) identify several worrying trends on the country’s roads. The review shows that from 1 January to 15 July, 2021, 65 people died on Irish roads in 60 collisions with a further 406 people were seriously injured. [1]

Speaking on behalf of Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, Colm Ryder, Chairperson said:

We welcome the publication of this report but are extremely concerned that safety on our rural roads is in severe decline. The RSA statistics identify a 13 percentage point increase in the proportion of the fatalities occurring in rural areas, as against urban areas. In 2020, 69% of fatalities (corresponding to 51 deaths) occurred in rural areas, while in 2021, 82% of fatalities (corresponding to 53 deaths). It’s an unacceptable trend for rural Ireland and one which demands a strong response from government bodies and local authorities responsible for roads, transport and mobility.”

Of particular concern is that school finishing time has been highlighted as being the most dangerous time of the day on the nation’s roads. The time between 12pm to 4pm was the period within which accounted for 31% of fatalities to date this year. Ireland’s statistics documenting the number of children cycling to school continues to show a worrying downward trend. Since 1986, the number of girls cycling to school in Ireland has fallen from 19,000. At present, only one in 250 girls cycle to school in Ireland each day. Just 694 secondary school girls in Ireland cycled to school as per the most recent census data. [2] 

The Department of Transport has announced funding to implement its Safe Routes to School Programme. The aim of the pilot programme is to assess routes to schools, selected by An Taisce Green Schools, and implement changes which would enable safe cycling and walking [3]. Speaking on behalf of the  Cyclist.ie Rural Cycling Collective, Anluan Dunne said: 

The pilot scheme to create safe routes to school shouldn’t be needed. Like the amazing cycle buses, such programmes are only needed because we have a legacy of poor design and even poorer priorities. I believe there is a growing acceptance that we have collectively made the wrong choices and now we need a concerted effort to rectify this. Specifically, we need less cars on our roads, increased enforcement of traffic law and severe penalties for people who endanger vulnerable road users such as children cycling to or from school.

Driver behaviour was highlighted by the RSA survey and by senior Gardaí as being the most impactful factor impacting the statistics. Mr Sam Waide, Chief Executive, Road Safety Authority said:

Our own research is telling us that one factor behind this is a deterioration in road user behaviour. The Driver Attitudes & Behaviour Survey  which we conducted late last year revealed more drivers admitting to speeding in 50km and 100km speed zones. It also showed an increase in motorists texting while driving plus driving while fatigued and nodding off while behind the wheel.”[4]

Cyclist.ie are calling for a zero-tolerance approach to road safety and an increase in penalties for drivers. An Garda Síochána issued 181,263 Fixed Charge Notices to motorists for speeding with detections continuing to rise across 2021. Cyclist.ie has also called for new infrastructure, such as fixed speed cameras and an online traffic offence portal, to be employed to make enforcement more effective. 

Neasa Bheilbigh, Vice-Chairperson of Cyclist.ie stated: 

Clearly the current penalties and detection rates are insufficient. We need widespread deployment of fixed speed cameras, an online submission portal for traffic offences and new technology to detect motorists utilising mobile phones while driving. In addition, we need to see plans to reduce the number of car journeys taken in Ireland, particularly where viable alternatives exist. We want to see a robust response from the Gardaí and other state organisations.

For more information please contact:

Anluan Dunne
Member of the Cyclist.ie Executive Committee
Chairperson of Kerry Cycling Campaign, [email protected] 

References:

[1] Road Safety Authority Six Month Road Safety Review, Jan to July 15 of 2021, Presentation – Available here

[2] Get Ireland Cycling Strategy Framework (2018) – Available at this link. See Chapter 2 and Appendix II.   

[3] New Safe Routes to School Funding is Allocated

[4] Majority of road deaths occur on Rural Roads in 2021

Dangerous Overtaking of Cyclists Legislation

Cyclist.ie Statement

Up until today, drivers who overtook cyclists dangerously could be prosecuted under the general law regarding dangerous overtaking and be given a fine of €80 and three penalty points. Examples of dangerous overtaking (or ‘punishment passes’ as they are sometimes known) can be seen on the following video links, here and here.

Cyclist.ie welcomes the new regulation regarding the dangerous overtaking of cyclists announced today (11th November 2019) by Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Under the new regulation, drivers will incur a penalty of a maximum of €120 for the dangerous overtaking of a person on a bicycle. There will be no increase in the number of penalty points awarded under the new law as this would require primary legislation.

Cyclist.ie is cautiously optimistic that there will be serious and systematic enforcement of the new regulations by An Garda Síochána. The impact the new laws will have on driver behaviour is critically linked with the enforcement regime to be employed by the Gardaí.

We are hopeful that with additional promotion of safe overtaking practice by the Road Safety Authority and other state bodies – and an active enforcement regime – that people cycling on the roads are given much greater overtaking distances by people driving, and that a normal and safe culture of cycling to and from school (especially) can be re-established.

Enormous credit for the introduction of this law is due to campaigner Phil Skelton from Safe Cycling Ireland, a member group of Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network. He has worked consistently and tirelessly on this issue for over six years, following the deaths of two cyclists in Wexford as a result of collisions with cars moving in the same direction as them. Speaking to Irish Cycle, Phil Skelton said: “This legislation sends a clear unambiguous signal to drivers that cyclists have a legitimate right to the road and recognises cyclists as legitimate road users.”

Cyclist.ie is conscious that already in 2019, nine people lost their lives while cycling. This regulation is but one element of a wider tool box of interventions to completely change cycling conditions on Irish roads. Other crucial elements include the roll-out of 30km/hr zones in all built-up areas, the construction of high quality and segregated cycling infrastructure and making all of the most hostile junctions in the country safe for people of all ages and abilities on bicycles.

Cyclist.ie will be posting a more detailed response to the new legislation after we have had a chance to scrutinise it. 

Cork Rallies for Safer Cycling

Cork Cycling Campaign Rallies for Better Protection for Cyclists;
Corkonians Rally for Safe, Usable Cycle Lanes

People who support cycling held their first rally outside City Hall on 11 February this evening. The rally was organised by the Cork Cycling Campaign to highlight problems experienced in the city, particularly vehicles stopping or parking in dedicated cycle lanes. The rally called for measures to make the city’s cycle lanes fit for purpose and safe for cycling.

The rally coincided with motions from Cllr Fiona Ryan (Solidarity Party) before the city council to install protective barriers in places where parking in cycle lanes is a persistent problem. These include South Main Street, Washington Street, and Alfred Street. Barriers are already routinely used across the city and have been installed between vehicular traffic lanes on Washington Street as recently as last month.

Cork Cycling Campaign pointed out that the rally shows how strongly people who cycle feel about vehicles parked in cycle lanes. First and foremost, this practise threatens the safety of people cycling. When drivers park cars or vans in cycle lanes, cyclists must swerve into another traffic lane and mix with fast, heavy vehicles. This poses a grave danger for unprotected road users. Such manoeuvres intimidate many people, especially children and inexperienced cyclists. Safeguarding cycle lanes is also a matter of mutual respect between different road users. Parking in cycle lanes disregards the needs of other road users, including buses which must wait for a break in traffic to manoeuvre around a parked car.

Full Press Release