Drivers to receive fine and penalty points for dangerous overtaking of cyclists

Law comes into force from midnight as cyclist groups call for greater infrastructure

Road signs will request a 1m overtaking distance between vehicles and cars in areas with speeding limits of under 50 km/h. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Road signs will request a 1m overtaking distance between vehicles and cars in areas with speeding limits of under 50 km/h. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Monday was a “great day for cyclists”, Minister for Transport Shane Ross announced as he launched new safety legislation by the side of a busy south Dublin roadway.

From midnight, drivers found dangerously overtaking someone on a bike will find themselves on the receiving end of a €120 fine and three penalty points.

It is a move to further protect and possibly placate cyclists whose agitation and campaigning on road safety have been stepped up in recent times.

Standing beside bright yellow overtaking signs erected moments earlier by nearby council workers, Mr Ross posed for photographs and extolled the benefits of the new law.

Not everyone was convinced. “This is a great incentive that you are doing but it’s not enough,” said campaigner Vanessa Sterry from the iBike Dublin group who surprised Mr Ross in front of the cameras. She presented him with 10 flowers representing the percentage of public transport funding they believe should be dedicated to cycling infrastructure.

“We just want to get to and from work, to and from the shops without being maimed or seriously harmed or even killed,” she said and pressed him for commitments to the Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network and the Liffey Cycle Route.

Overtaking distance

Mr Ross was more concerned with pushing the value of the new laws which cycling campaigners have been told will be enforced by gardaí.

The Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking Amendment) Regulations 2019 build on other legislation governing dangerous overtaking generally.

“Today is a great day for cyclists. It’s a great day because we have introduced this particular measure and it’s about road safety and it’s about saving lives,” Mr Ross said.

He mentioned the BusConnects project - which he opined should have been called Bus and Cycling Connects - and its dedicated corresponding bike lanes. A cycling advocate will be appointed to the board of Transport Infrastructure Ireland, he said.

“The cycling groups can be absolutely assured we have bought into the cycling message. Cyclists are vulnerable and we are determined that they will be protected and they will be protected more than they ever have been before by this measure.”

Supporting road signs will request a 1m overtaking distance between vehicles and cars in areas with speeding limits of under 50 km/h, and of 1.5 metres everywhere else. Such specific distances have been the subject of previous legislative problems.

“We did seek a cyclist specific minimum passing distance legislation but that was thwarted by the Attorney General due to what he felt were issues with enforcement and prosecution,” explained Phil Skelton of the group Stayin’ Alive at 1.5. “So this is kind of a new model of safe passing distance legislation.”

Those early proposals were abandoned last January over concerns about how the distances could be measured for enforcement purposes.

Nevertheless, the new measure is a welcome compromises for those seeking more protection.

Colm Ryder of Cyclist.ie, the advocacy network, described his own near miss when being overtaken earlier this year.

“I’ve had my handlebars clipped by mirrors of cars. It’s scary,” he said. “I was very lucky, I wobbled but I didn’t have a bad fall. These kind of things happen on a daily basis.”

Chief Supt Paul Cleary from the Garda National Roads Policing Bureau said reported breaches of the new law would be investigated and where there was “sufficient evidence to sustain a prosecution that prosecution will be taken”.

“The guards are out there,” he said. “We have increased our activity in roads policing. This is another measure that we can utilise to vulnerable cyclists.”