‘Drivers do not own the road’

The Road Safety Authority has urged motorists to share the road with bicycle users, as the number of cyclists killed on Irish roads so far in 2017 is now more than twice what it was this time last year.

The death of Donal O’Brien, who was killed in Cork when he was in an accident with a car while on his bicycle on Sunday, brings to eight the number of cyclists who died following a collision so far this year. Ten cyclists died in total in 2016.

Brian Farrell, RSA communications manager, said it is positive to see an increase in the number of those taking to the roads on a bicycle because of the benefits to cyclists’ health and the environment. However he said the greater numbers of cyclists means a greater risk that a cyclist could be injured.

“There’s a huge job to be done, with drivers in particular,” he said, adding that motorists need to realise that they do not “own the road”.

“Drivers don’t have exclusive rights to the road,” he said.

Mr Farrell said the RSA is well aware of the “war” between cyclists and motorists both on the roads and on social media, and called for all road users to show tolerance to each other.

“There is a particular responsibility on drivers, because if a car hits a bicycle, it is always the cyclist who comes off worse,” he said.

He said the RSA believes motorists should give at least 1.5m space when overtaking cyclists, and show patience until there is a safe opportunity to pass.

“Cyclists are entitled to cycle two abreast,” he said, “you would hope that they would show common sense and pull in where they can to let a car pass, but they are entitled to cycle two abreast unless passing parked cars.”

Mr Farrell said that speed is a crucial factor in the outcome for a cyclist when they are hit by a car. The RSA’s research shows that 80% of motorists break the 50kmph speed limit and that drivers are becoming increasingly distracted by mobile phones and children in their cars.

“If a driver going at 50km/h hits a cyclist or pedestrian it’s a toss of a coin as to whether they survive,” said Mr Farrell. “Drivers sit cocooned in their cars, but for a pedestrian or cyclist a small margin could prove fatal.”

He said, however, that nine out of ten pedestrians and cyclists survive if hit by a car travelling at 30km/h, and said the country needs to see a roll out of such a limit in its towns and city centres.

Mr Farrell added that cyclists must obey the rules of the road, including red lights, but said that anti-cyclist rhetoric from high-profile commentators is “very unhelpful”.


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