Fine Gael’s new law will protect cyclists on Irish Roads

-   Fine Gael Press Office

MOTORISTS could soon be fined for driving too close to cyclists in a new road safety law.

In a bid to protect cyclists on Irish roads, Fine Gael Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon and Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty, will tomorrow (Weds) publish a Bill that will see motorists forced to obey a minimum passing distance of 1.5 metres- and one metre in zones with speed limits of under 50 km per hour- when overtaking cyclists.

Drivers who do not comply with the new rules will face an €80 fine and three penalty points, as proposed in the Bill.

It is hoped that the Bill will be passed before the Dáil rises for its summer break.

Deputy Cannon said: “A worrying amount of drivers seem to have a ‘no contact, no harm’ attitude.

“Over the last 24 months 20 cyclists have been killed on Irish roads. It is no longer acceptable to expose our cyclists to huge risks on our roads and this law sets out to significantly reduce those risks.

A Minimum Passing Distance Law is essentially about creating a safe space on our roads for cyclists, a space where they feel protected.”

“A number of drivers already give this space when overtaking but sadly many more don’t.

This is about effecting a cultural change in Ireland so that every driver is aware of the vulnerability of cyclists, young and old, and drive accordingly.”

The Road Traffic (Minimum Passing Distance of Cyclists) Bill 2017 is also being supported by Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty.

Deputy Doherty, who represents Meath East, said: “We all need to share the roads and to do that they must be made safer.”

“The only way to do this is to introduce a Minimum Passing Distance Law. Once a safe passing distance is legislated for, we need to significantly raise awareness of this law by amending the Rules of the Road and funding new public awareness campaigns.”

“More and more people of all ages are cycling as a hobby, as a way to commute to work or school or as part of a healthy lifestyle,”Deputy Doherty said.

Countries that have introduced the 1.5-metre minimum distance law include France, Belgium, Portugal and Australia, 26 US states and several provinces in Canada.

Research by the American League of Cyclists in 2014 found up to 40 per cent of cyclist fatalities are caused by cyclists being hit from behind by a motor vehicle travelling in the same direction.

A campaign for a similar law in Ireland was spearheaded by Wexford cyclist Phil Skelton, who felt compelled to take action when two local cyclists died from injuries sustained in close passing incidents with motorists.

Mr Skelton said: “I was hit on the elbow by an overtaking car in between these two tragic events and rather than give up an activity I had grown to love, I did some research to see what other jurisdictions had done about this particular problem and subsequently set up the Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 campaign with the help of Australian advocates who were campaigning for Minimum Passing Distance Law (MPDL) in Queensland at the time.’

“If you are not a cyclist it can be very difficult to imagine just how intimidating it is to be overtaken by a vehicle too closely.

The creation of a virtual safety zone through the introduction of Minimum Passing Distance Law is not just for middle aged men in Lycra, this is aimed at all people who ride bicycles and especially those who are currently too scared to do so.”

Dr. Mike McKillen of cyclist.ie, Ireland’s national cycling lobby group, says that the introduction of a MPDL is long overdue.

He said: “A significant number of drivers in Ireland don’t give sufficient space to cyclists when overtaking them. This scares the life out of the rider and it’s akin to standing on the edge of a railway platform while the train thunders past you.

Sadly many riders have been killed or seriously injured by drivers impacting with their bike.

Hopefully once enacted it will lead to parents allowing their children to cycle to school in increasing numbers once they realise that drivers accord their children proper respect in traffic by not overtaking them too closely.”

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