Tag Archives: Health&Safety

All health & safety issues, inc. diet & lifestyle; also helmets

Focus on COVID-19, not broken bones from speeding cars

Advocates for everyday cycling call on all to support Prof John Crown’s plea for lowered speed limits nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prof Crown, consultant oncologist at St Vincent’s Hospital and former Senator, called for lowered speed limits nationwide during this public health emergency [1]. 

We are all concerned by reports countrywide of people driving faster. Though our roads are emptier, six people died in road traffic collisions last week [2] and road deaths are up by a quarter for 2020. 

The Road Safety Authority, Gardaí, medics and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport  are asking motorists to slow down to avoid overburdening hospitals [3]. This does not go far enough.

The number one action to ‘lower the baseline’, and reduce one of the biggest causes of hospital admissions, is to immediately lower motor vehicle speeds, says The BMJ [4] and NHS doctors in The Times [5]. This is supported by 20’s Plenty for Us, a UK campaign for more liveable street environments by setting a mandatory 20 mph (circa 30 km/h) limit for most roads where people live [6].

The Isle of Man introduced an all-island speed limit of 40 mph (circa 65 km/h) from midnight Friday to ensure that its hospital does not become overwhelmed during the coronavirus pandemic [7].

Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network that represents over twenty local campaign groups, greenway groups, and bike festivals, says:

We need more than a message that ‘motorists must slow down’. Lowering and enforcing speed limits will reduce the frequency and severity of road traffic collisions. Lower speed limits could be achieved immediately via ministerial order under Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 2004 [8], but this will need buy-in from all. We call on Minister Shane Ross, An Garda Síochana, and the Road Safety Authority to act now.

Phil Skelton, founder and chief campaigner of Stayin’ Alive at 1.5, the successful campaign for the introduction of a cyclist specific dangerous overtaking law for Ireland [9], says:

We can reduce collisions in our cities, towns and villages with a 30 km/h speed limit. Every day we witness more people stepping off narrow footpaths – where they exist – to maintain the 2 metre physical distancing. With the new restrictions announced last night, people are now limited to exercising locally with 2 km of their homes. Essential workers will continue to commute by bicycle and by foot. We need drivers to slow down, give space to people cycling and walking, and save lives. ”

Mairéad Forsythe of Love 30, a campaign for lower speed limits [10], says:

Research is stark: collisions at 50 km/h are five times more likely to be fatal than at 30 km/h [11]. We need to follow the example of the Isle of Man and make our rural and urban roads safer from our doorsteps. We need lower speed limits, now.” 

Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, and other cycling and walking groups support Prof Crown’s call for immediate reductions in road speeds, in particular a default 30 km/h speed limit in urban areas.

How to report a ‘dangerous overtaking of a cyclist’ incident

Last November a new offence of ‘dangerous overtaking of cyclists’ was introduced, it carries a higher fine of €120 as well as three penalty points. How you can report such dangerous overtaking is explained in this article by Paul Corcoran, a former chairperson of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, who has recently reported cases to the Gardai.

See full article, on IrishCycle.com

DTTAS Proposals for Graduated Speeding Fines

Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network  wholeheartedly endorses the appeal to Cabinet by The Irish Road Victims  Association, IRVA, to support  Minister for Transport Shane Ross’ plan to introduce graduated fines for people caught speeding.  Chairperson of Cyclist.ie ,Colm Ryder, said ” We were disappointed last week to hear FG TD Peter Burke oppose the measure on RTE Radio, and astounded to read a report this morning that 6 cabinet members also oppose the measure”.

The IRVA comprises members who have lost loved ones in a road traffic collision, and their view, on the need to take measures to curb speeding, is deserving of respect.  Graduated fines are a commonplace way of doing this in other jurisdictions.  Mr Ryder pointed out that the commonsense stance of the IRVA is supported by official statistics from the Garda and the RSA.

To date in 2019, 131 people have died on Irish roads , an increase of 10 on the same period in 2018.  There has also been an increase in the number of vulnerable road users ie motorcyclists, pedal cyclists and pedestrians who have died. According to the statistics on the Garda website, up to November 25th, 25 pedestrians, 16 motor cyclists and 9 pedal cyclists have died. This represents 38% or more than 1 in 3 of all fatalities.  Cyclist.ie is not claiming that speed was a factor in any or all of those  collisions but we do know that the chances of dying upon being hit by a vehicle increases substantially with the speed of the vehicle.

The most recent RSA Free Speed survey indicates that 52% of car drivers break the speed limit on urban roads and 27% on rural roads, while an incredible 98% of drivers break the lower urban 30 kph speed limits. “This being the case” said  Mr Ryder,  “Cyclist.ie doesn’t understand why the concept of graduated fines is being portrayed as another attack on rural Ireland. Observation of speed limits is in all our interests whether we live in rural or urban Ireland. We applaud the IRVA for its stance and call on every member of Cabinet tomorrow to back in principle the concept of graduated fines based on speed of the vehicle.  The details can be ironed out via amendments.”  Mr  Ryder stated that Cyclist.ie favours higher fines in low speed areas as this is where vulnerable road users are most at risk.

Health Bodies Call for Active Travel in Climate Action Plan

Major Health Bodies support call for Active Travel to be an integral part of the forthcoming All of Government Climate Action Plan

The Irish Heart Foundation, the Irish Cancer Society, Diabetes Ireland, Irish Doctors for the Environment, the Association of Health Promotion Ireland, Professor Donal O’Shea (National Clinical Lead for Obesity and Hon. President of Cyclist.ie), and the Irish Pedestrian Network have signed an open letter from Cyclist.ie to the Taoiseach asking for concrete measures to facilitate active travel to form an integral part of the forthcoming All of Government Climate Action Plan.

The Department of Transport’s walking and cycling budget is increasing this year, but planned expenditure comes nowhere near the 10% level demanded by Cyclist.ie for cycling in its Pre-Budget Submission 2019 and endorsed by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA). The ground-breaking report by the JOCCA makes a very strong case for active travel with the statement – “active travel measures are also among the most cost-effective emissions reduction strategies”. Our particular focus is how this needs to happen on health grounds. There is overwhelming evidence that lack of physical activity is a contributory cause in a host of debilitating chronic illnesses, including heart-disease, stroke, some cancers and diabetes. Hence the endorsement of the letter by all of the above health bodies. The forthcoming Climate Action Plan presents an opportunity to set targets for active travel which will contribute to reducing emissions and promoting health.

Read article

Safer, rounder trucks to hit the roads next year

The introduction date for more aerodynamic, safer truck cabs on Europe’s roads will be brought forward to 1 September 2020, EU lawmakers agreed yesterday. The European federation of transport NGOs, Transport & Environment (T&E), welcomed the reform which will speed the roll-out of more rounded truck fronts that allow drivers to better see pedestrians and cyclists and improve fuel efficiency.

Under the changes agreed last night, truckmakers will be permitted an additional 80-90cm of cab length in return for improving the aerodynamics, vision, safety and driver comfort of the truck cab.

James Nix, T&E’s freight and climate director, said: “For decades EU law prohibited truckmakers from producing more streamlined, rounded cabs, holding back safety and aerodynamics. Today’s decision puts an end to this and paves the way for more fuel efficient and safer trucks to hit the road from next year, many years earlier than previously agreed.”

Today’s trucks account for 2% of vehicles on the road but 15% of fatalities, amounting to 4,000 deaths every year across Europe. Around 1,000 of these deaths are cyclists and pedestrians. Combined with other design changes, the reform will also enable emissions reductions and fuel savings of up to 10% from long-haul trucks.

On 21 February, legislators will decide on another key reform – the introduction of a ‘direct vision’ standard for new trucks in the General Safety Regulation – in a vote by the European Parliament’s internal market committee (IMCO). The standard is expected to set out the area surrounding a truck cab the driver must be able to see without using mirrors or cameras, thus improving safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

James Nix concluded: “The design change just agreed will help consign the brick-shaped cab to history. However, unlike for cars, there is still no minimum area of the road that truck drivers must be able to see directly. MEPs should now pass the direct vision standard which will go a step further in making Europe’s roads safer for all.”

T&E noted that the reform of truck cab design has taken place in less than nine months, showing that the EU can move speedily. The proposal was published as part of the mobility reform package in mid-May 2018.

Cyclists call on gardaí to protect them from road rage drivers

Cyclists have called for more action by gardaí to protect cyclists after a number of apparent road rage incidents emerged in videos on social media.

The call came after dash-cam footage of an incident involving a cyclist and taxi driver on Belvedere Road between North Circular Road and Dorset Street in north Dublin was published on social media on Wednesday.

Read article (which contains video)

Cycle Right or Cycle Wrong?

In 2017, Deputy Catherine Murphy addressed a question in the Dail about the management of the cycle training programme Cycle Right, specifically the anticipated increase in cycling to school and the benchmark for success. This was against a background in the UK of increased training having no significant effect on cycling levels unless accompanied by the provision of high quality infrastructure.

The response by Minister Shane Ross was in short that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport had no idea about how effective the scheme would be and did not have any benchmark for success.

In 2018, one year on from having introduced the scheme, Deputy Catherine Murphy again asked about the effectiveness of Cycle Right. (​ See full transcript of question and answer) In a rambling response, the Minister Shane Ross confirmed that there was no data available on the number of children cycling to school directly as a result of Cycle Right training.

He did state that in 2017, 15,245 pupils participated in Cycle Right training in 428 schools. which means that 4% of primary schools pupils (if only primary schools took part) 1 or 2.7% of all pupils received cycle training. He went on to state that

“This cycle training ……. will result, over time, in an increase in the number of responsible cyclists on our roads. As Cycle Right is essentially a training programme, we will continue to monitor it based on the number of participants ……

There is no evidence that cycle training on its own will lead to increased cycling. In stating the increase in terms of additional responsible cycling, it could be interpreted that there would be no additional cyclists – only more ‘responsible’ ones. The statement that they will continue to monitor Cycle Right based on the number of participants is “flannel”. Of course the Department is going to continue to monitor the scheme as it is funded on the basis of a payment per head.

The response to the parliamentary question then rambles on to discuss the Green Schools programme although Green Schools were not referred to in the question. The Green School programme monitors the number of children travelling by active means but only those schools which are participating in the Travel Module. Any school which is not participating in the Travel Module or in the Green Schools programme is not monitored. The survey results report an increase from 3% to 4% over two years. This is more selective hype and spin by the Minister and his Department as they aggregate the results over more than one year in order to boost the results.

So now we know that only a small percentage of pupils receive cycle training and nobody has any idea about its effectiveness. This lack of interest in its outcome begs the question what is this Minister and / or senior management doing?

European Cities Could Avoid up to 10,000 Premature Deaths by Expanding Cycling Networks

A study led by researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) has found that expanding designated cycling networks in cities could provide considerable health and economic benefits, with a rate of return of up to 70 € for every euro invested.

The analysis – part of European Commission funded Physical Activity through Sustainable Transport Approaches (PASTA) project – of data from 167 European cities suggests that the length of cycling infrastructures is associated with a cycling mode share of up to 24.7%, in which 1 in every 4 citizens would choose the bicycle for their daily commuting. The study, published in Preventive Medicine, estimates that if all the assessed cities achieved a 24.7% bicycle mode share, over 10,000 premature deaths could be avoided annually. Read article

Valuing Cycling in the European Parliament: How to address the €80 billion cost of physical inactivity?

The epidemic of physical inactivity was the main topic of discussion at the Sport intergroup conference in the European Parliament (EP) last week. Its €80 billion cost, first raised by Marisa Fernandez Esteban of the EU Sport Unit was repeated over and over. ECF’s response to this public health crisis is the EU Cycling Strategy, with its 2030 aims to increase cycling by 50%, reduce cycling fatalities by 50%, thereby adding 225,000 jobs and 250 billion euros to the cycling economy. “If every EU citizen did just 15 minutes more of cycling or walking each day, we’d save 100,000 lives from unnecessary early deaths each year,” said ECF health policy officer Dr. Randy Rzewnicki. “Walking and cycling is the best buy for EU cities and towns,” he said, “We’re working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) to make that message clear in many ways: including free training in the Health Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT) and supporting the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (GAPPA).” Read article