Transport Minister Shane Ross has defended the Government’s decision not to go ahead with proposed minimum passing distance laws to protect cyclists, amid criticism that the u-turn is a ‘cop out’.
Mr Ross said he is following the advice of the Attorney General, who said it would not be possible to enforce proposals that would legally require motorists to leave a minimum space of 1.5m between their vehicle and any cyclist they are overtaking.
“We had measures ready and prepared for Minimum Passing Distance of 1.5 for cyclists which is practiced in some other countries, but the Attorney General feels that is not a way forward because of the enforceability measure, that it wouldn’t be possible to do that. It would be challenged, and successfully challenged in the courts,” Mr Ross said.
“There isn’t the technology available at the moment to actually measure the 1.5, in which case it would be challenged in every case, that the technology wasn’t working and you couldn’t prove the actual distance,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.
He said the Government will seek to introduce a statutory instrument that would have the same effect and legislate against the dangerous overtaking of cyclists.
However, his decision has come in for criticism from opposition politicians, including the Green Party’s Transport Spokesperson Cllr. Ciarán Cuffe, who said the decision to drop the minimum passing law “is bitterly disappointing and is hard to understand”.
He said this is particularly hard to understand as other countries such as Australia have had minimum passing laws in place for some time.
“It seems that the Attorney General has adopted a somewhat cautious approach to these much-needed changes. Over 50 cyclists have died on Irish roads in the last five years and we desperately need to improve their safety,” Cllr Cuffe said.
“In the absence of a minimum passing law Minister Ross should proceed with the improvements recommended by the Road Safety Authority in their recent review of minimum passing distances.
"They proposed that An Garda Síochána place a greater emphasis on enforcing unsafe motorist-cyclist interactions, and Minister Ross should sit down with the Minister for Justice to make this happen,” he said.
In Cork, Labour’s candidate for the City Council’s South East Ward Peter Horgan described the decision as “a failure and a cop-out by Minister Ross”.
“He is failing to deliver on the commitments he has made and is reaching for excuses that he would rubbish if it concerned one of his pet topics,” Mr Horgan said.
"For a Minister who has made much noise about improved road safety, I am disappointed to he see him wash his hands of this.
"He shouldn't abandon cyclist safety just because it is hard. Minimum distance has been introduced effectively in other jurisdictions, so it can be implemented here with the right Minister," he said.