ByJuno McEnroe and Joe Leogue
A new law and fine to combat the dangerous overtaking of cyclists will come into effect tonight.
Transport Minister Shane Ross will today make it a distinct offence for a motorist to dangerously overtake a cyclist, increasing fines to €120.
He is using secondary legislation for the law which will be operated by gardaí from midnight.
The move comes after 40 cyclists were killed on Irish roads since 2016 and also after a doubling of the number of people peddling into Dublin for work in recent years. Many other cyclists have experienced near misses by vehicles and protesters have ramped up events in recent months.
Road safety chiefs say drivers should give cyclists 1.5 metres of space when passing in zones with speed limits over 50kph and one metre where the limit is 50kph or lower.
Mr Ross will today launch the new law in his constituency and outline how it will operate. He will be joined by gardaí, the Road Safety Authority, as well as cycling advocates.
There had been a campaign to make minimum passing distances a legal requirement but the Attorney General advised against this on the grounds of enforceability.
The new law will see the fine for dangerous overtaking increased from €80 to €120 but penalty points will not increase as this would require fresh primary legislation.
It comes as the National Transport Agency’s (NTA) plan to establish a dedicated cycling infrastructure office that will focus on Dublin has been branded a ‘disgrace’ and ‘an absolute joke’ by Cork City councillors.
The criticism comes after the NTA informed Fingal County Council that it “is in the very early stages of setting up a dedicated office to concentrate on the delivery of cycle infrastructure”.
However, the update, in response to a query from Fingal Green councillor Roderic O’Gorman, added that the NTA “has further informed the council that the proposed office is likely to focus on schemes in the Dublin City Council area”.
A recent survey conducted by Cork Cycling Campaign found that fewer than 5% of Cork cyclists surveyed believe the city council is doing a good job in ensuring existing cycle infrastructure is fit for purpose, and nearly 75% said safety concerns formed the biggest obstacle they faced to cycling on a regular basis.
Figures recently released by the CSO revealed that 271,581 journeys were made on the public bike share scheme in Cork in 2018, not including the number made by people on their own bikes.
The number of subscribers to the scheme rose from 11,388 in January 2018 to 13,466 by the end of the year. Cork City Council said the one millionth journey on thescheme since its launch in 2014 occurred in August of this year.
The Green Party in Cork said the Dublin-centric nature of the NTA proposal “is a symptom of a wider problem in State funding and infrastructure development”.
“Everyday we get calls, emails, and tweets from constituents asking us about how we can make Cork a better place to cycle in, and a lot of the time the only answer we can really give them is something to the effect of ‘it’s not up to us, it’s under the purview of the NTA’,” said Green Party councillor Lorna Bogue.
“It’s getting increasingly difficult to believe that this Government really cares about cycling, or anywhere outside of Dublin. For the ‘National’ Transport Agency to openly say it’s only going to work on cycling in Dublin is a disgrace,” she said.
“We’re in the middle of a climate crisis, and a key part of combating this crisis is getting people to opt for public transport or cycling over their own car. How can we expect people to make this change if they can’t be sure of getting to work on time, or if they feel like they’re taking their life in their hands by just cycling down the road?”