The Road Safety Authority has stressed the need for drivers to leave a specific clearance distance of 1.5m when passing cyclists as pressure mounts for the requirement to be passed into law.
The RSA was responding yesterday to the initiative of Wexford cyclist Phil Skelton which has now been backed by a road safety officer in the West.
It follows a tragic year for fatalities in 2014 when 12 cyclists were killed on Irish roads — more than double the 2013 figure of five deaths.
An extensive study carried out in the US by the American League of cyclists revealed that 40% of cyclist fatalities are caused by collisions from the rear.
Many of these are believed to occur as a result of motorists “taking a chance” and skimming past the cyclist when it isn’t safe to do.
Phil Skelton, a member of Slaney Cycling Club in Enniscorthy, said he quickly became aware of the inherent dangers in cycling after being grazed by a driver’s wing mirror during an overtaking manoeuvre.
“This unnerved me massively — realising the fine line between wobbling in to the nearby ditch and a potentially more severe outcome,” he said.
Up to 22 US states have dealt with the problem by passing legislation specifying a safe distance while overtaking a cyclist. This specified distance varies from country to country but the internationally recognised safe distance is 1.5m.
Belgium, Germany, France, and, most recently, Portugal have adopted this designated safe overtaking space.
A campaign entitled “Stayin’ alive at 1.5” has been set up by the Wexford cyclist aimed at specifying in legislation the necessary overtaking distance.
Mayo road safety officer Noel Gibbons has endorsed the campaign. He said:
“The outcome that we’re looking for is for cars to stop hitting bikes. We want people not to hit bike riders in their cars when they’re on the road because the reality is that the majority of crashes that lead to bike rider deaths involve a vehicle.
“If the road is too narrow for a vehicle to overtake a cyclist at a distance of 1.5m, then that vehicle must travel behind the cycle until it is able to overtake it lawfully”.
In a statement, the Road Safety Authority said it was asking drivers to be respectful of cyclists and mindful of how they use the road.
“The RSA clearly advises drivers to provide a 1.5m clearance when overtaking cyclists and this is communicated as one of the central messages in our current mass media education campaign on cycle safety,” the statement read.
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