The cyclist who breaks red lights and ignores the rules of the road has become a feature of Dublin traffic. Perhaps it was always so. But efforts to popularise cycling through rental and subsidy schemes and the provision of dedicated cycle lanes have focused official attention on this unacceptable behaviour. Now, on-the-spot fines can be imposed by gardai for specific breaches of the law.
It is not before time. Something had to be done to change behavioural patterns and raise public awareness about the rising number of cyclists being killed and injured, particularly in Dublin.
Film footage from the 1950s shows a scrum of cyclists, ahead of motorists, waiting to be waved on by traffic policemen on O’Connell Bridge. Cycling, as a means of transport, diminished greatly in subsequent decades as prosperity increased and motorists came to rule the roads. As the bicycle regains its popularity, motorists – already unhappy over the provision of bus lanes – must learn to share available road space with this slower, more vulnerable, means of transport.
The Road Safety Authority has initiated a televised campaign designed to raise driver awareness of the vulnerability of cyclists and their need for road space. But while overtaking manoeuvres can be dangerous, most fatal collisions happen at road junctions. Visual black spots on trucks and driver inattention are major contributing factors. But cyclists can do more to protect themselves by wearing high visibility clothing and anticipating the prospect of not being seen. Obeying the rules of the road is a priority.
So far this year, five cyclists have died and twelve were killed in 2014. About half of the collisions involved cars and one-third trucks. Built-up areas and junctions off two-way single carriageways are the most dangerous, with Dublin generating half of all fatalities. Cycling can be a healthy, efficient means of transport and its popularity is likely to grow. Motorists must have regard for the growing number of these road users and anticipate their needs, just as cyclists should obey the rules of the road.