Times up: Respect the Bike, Share the road

Jackie Costa Ribeiro

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It is time for 1.5m safe distance overtaking. However, more than a new law, we need solidarity with others’ lives

A new law to protect cyclists from dangerous overtaking by motorists will be introduced very soon in Ireland. The minimum passing distance law (MPDL) is expected to improve cyclists’ safety and encourage more people to cycle.

It is time for 1.5 m safe distance overtaking. However, more than a new law, we need solidarity with others’ lives . Photo Credit: Bikes & Girls – Flickr

In spite of that, there has been a lot of confusion about this proposed new law. Just a few weeks ago, the Minister for Transport Shane Ross himself expressed doubts about it, indicating that it may be unenforceable. Even a report by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) advised not enacting this law. However, on Thursday 1st March 2018 the Minister announced that the Bill will indeed be introduced (through secondary legislation which will class those in breach of it as an overtaking offence) as soon as Gardaí procure equipment to measure passing distances.

This reporter spoke to several cyclists and drivers to find out their views on this new law. Emmet McDonagh from Dublin, who is a regular cyclist and commutes every day by bicycle, believes that “it seems like a good idea but it won’t make any difference. To be honest, I haven’t heard a lot about it apart from one ad that I saw on TV”, he said. “They should probably just build more cycle lanes. It would make a lot more sense. Anyway, how are they going to enforce it?”.

Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 is a campaign to pursue the adoption of a law that requires motorists to give cyclists 1.5 meters clearance when passing from the rear. Photo Credit: Safe Cycling Ireland

The issue of how this new law will be enforced was echoed by several people to whom this reporter spoke. According to Safe Cycling Ireland, which runs the “Stayin’ Alive at 1.5” campaign, founded by Phil Skelton in 2013, which marked the beginning of the introduction of this new law, there are three methods of enforcing the new law. According to their website (http://www.safecyclingireland.org/mpdl-enforcement/), these include Garda eyewitness, onboard cyclist camera footage and finally road traffic Gardaí will be equipped with ultrasonic devices which can measure the distance between cars and bicycles.

Radio campaign – http://www.safecyclingireland.org/1037-2/

This law has already been introduced in 42 jurisdictions in the world. It has been found not to lead to a large number of prosecutions, but instead to be beneficial in educating all road users.
Another cyclist that this reporter spoke to, welcomed the new law. “Cyclists are treated like second-class citizens on the roads in Ireland. This new law might be just political tokenism, it might be meaningless. But hopefully, it will force drivers to be more aware of cyclists and it will give cyclists more courage ”, he said.

But what do drivers think of this new law?

The law will require motorists to pass cyclists at 1m clearance on roads with a speed limit of 50 km/h and 1.5m on those of 50km/h or above. Drivers found to have breached the law will face a €80 fine and have three penalty points added to their licence.

This reporter spoke to Brendan O’Shea, a driver from south Dublin to find out his view. “I understand that cyclists can feel vulnerable on the road, but I think it’s sometimes difficult (as a motorist) to pass a cyclist making sure to give them enough space”, he said. “There are plenty of other laws such as not using mobile phones, or even speeding, that aren’t enforced at the moment. This one will probably be the same. But at the same time, I welcome any laws that might help encourage people to leave their cars and cycle more. But what about cyclists who cycle on footpaths and break red lights? Will penalty points be introduced for them?”.

With regard to this issue, there are fixed charge notices for cyclists. Talking to Safe Cycling Ireland, they state that:

This idea that cyclists are uniquely and universally incapable of complying with the rules of the road is complete nonsense and not borne out by the facts. And it certainly shouldn’t be used as a reason not to introduce road safety laws.

15 cyclists died on Irish roads last year and the government is under pressure to improve these statistics. International evidence has shown that the introduction of minimum passing distance law (MPDL), has led to a reduction in cyclist fatalities.

On your bike and let’s share the road.

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Jackie Costa Ribeiro

Jaqueline Costa Ribeiro, was born in Itapevi, Brazil in 1984. She graduated from the Bandeirante University of São Paulo (UNIBAN) with a degree in Technology in Radio and TV Management in 2008 and a postgraduate diploma in Television Communication Studies in 2010. Currently, she is living in Dublin and undertaking a Masters in Journalism and Media Communications at Griffith College.