Call for safe interaction with cyclists to be mandatory part of driving courses


THE TEACHING of safe interaction with cyclists should be a mandatory element in all driving instruction courses, according to a new lobby group., a coalition of seven regional cycling groups, is also calling for legislation requiring motorists to leave 1½ metres between their vehicle and cyclists when overtaking them.

In a 52-page document published yesterday and submitted to the Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, the group calls for a national cycling-promotion policy.

They say increasing the proportion of people using bicycles or walking rather than travelling in cars is vital if Ireland is to meet stringent Kyoto commitments.

"Almost everyone can cycle yet fewer people are cycling than ever before. Our towns and cities are struggling to deal with increasing motorised traffic congestion and its negative effects on the economy, environment, climate and community, and yet the urban areas are generally hostile places for cyclists."

The document sets out how cycling has declined since the 1980s, from a high in 1986 when 23,635 school pupils cycled to school to just 4,087 in 2006.

It says there should be a "hierarchy-of-provision" approach to encouraging cycling, and says the provision of cycle lanes should be the last option.

More important than more cycle lanes to encourage cycling are a reduction in traffic speed in urban areas, a reduction in traffic volumes, the modification or removal of roundabouts and increasing road space and overtaking space for cyclists.

"Safety will come via globally-revised road design standards, traffic enforcement and modifying drivers' and cyclists' behaviour in each other's presence."

The document sets out a five-year plan for cycling with annual targets. Among the things that should be carried out in the first year are the appointment of an advisory committee on cycling promotion, the publication of a revised edition of The Rules of the Road to include rules on safe interaction with cyclists and giving cyclists permission to bring their bikes on trains.

Among other targets to be reached in the five years are that 10 per cent of urban parking should be given over to bicycles, on-road cycle training should become compulsory for all school pupils and all single-lane one-way roads should be made de facto two-way for cyclists.

The group says pedestrian guardrails represent a "very real hazard" to cyclists, and says their use must be reviewed. It says a study of cyclists' deaths in Dublin found guardrails may have contributed to three deaths by trapping cyclists inside turning lorries.

"There seems to be a particular problem in Ireland with close overtaking by motorists of cyclists and pedestrians. When combined with speeding, this behaviour threatens those subjected to it. The French traffic regulations specify minimum passing distances to be used by drivers when passing cyclists (1m on urban roads and 1.5m on rural roads)."