The Irish Times view on cycling safety: a dangerous road

Changes of attitude will be required to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries

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The dangers involved in cycling may not be fully appreciated and there are worrying indications that last year’s dramatic increase to 15 road deaths could be replicated in 2018. Seven cyclists have died so far this year and many more have been seriously injured.

This compares to an annual maximum of 10 deaths during previous years. No details are yet available concerning the circumstances of the fatalities or whether motor vehicles were involved.

Road safety applies to all road users: drivers, motor bikers, pedestrians and cyclists, and all have interlinked responsibilities. While the number of motorists killed in crashes has fallen slowly in recent years, it remains the most significant statistic.

The number of pedestrians who died last year was double the number of cyclists. On the positive side, while cyclist numbers continue to rise, their behaviour appears to have improved – based on the number of fixed-charge fines issued by gardaí. Some 1,429 fixed-charge fines were issued in 2017 for various road traffic offences. That figure has, so far, fallen to 484 this year.

The most common – and dangerous – offence for which fixed-charge fines were issued involved running red lights. This blatant behaviour accounted for almost half of all cyclist fines issued by gardaí. Inadequate lighting, front and rear, and riding in pedestrianised areas made up the bulk of the remainder. It would be a grave mistake to reduce the level of Garda activity at a time of growing cyclist numbers. That would compound the error made by the Department of Transport when it cut investment in cycling infrastructure by more than half in recent years.

Cycling is a healthy and economical way of getting to work and more and more people are discovering its benefits. Safety is, however, an overriding consideration and changes of attitude will be required to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries.

The same can be said of motorists who drink and drive. We all have responsibilities in this shared and dangerous space.

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