Motorists could face fine and penalty points for driving too close to cyclists

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Motorists could face fine and penalty points for driving too close to cyclists

Fine Gael is seeking radical new laws to give penalty points to motorists who drive too close to cyclists.

Fine Gael TDs Ciarán Cannon and Regina Doherty, the Government chief whip are publishing their new Road Traffic (Minimum Passing Distance of Cyclists) Bill 2017.

It is their wish to see the bill passed before the Dáil’s summer recess and so they must seek the support of Transport Minister Shane Ross first and also transport spokespersons of other political parties for the law to get the go ahead.

Department of Transport officials are also working on a measure to create a special offence of “dangerously overtaking cyclists”, and Minister Ross concurred by saying “I believe that they need protection.”

Twenty cyclists have died on Irish road in the past two years and the latest move comes as a result of these figures.

Under the planned law, drivers could face €80 fines and three penalty points if they are caught encroaching on cyclists’ road space.

If the case ends up in court, you could face fines of up to €1,500 and five penalty points if convicted.

Minimum passing law

It is proposed that the minimum passing distance would be set at 1.5 metres on roads with speed limits of more than 50kmh.

Further to this, on streets and roads with lower speed limits, a distance of one metre would apply.

The campaign  ‘Stayin’ Alive at 1.5′ for a minimum distance law was set up by Wexford cyclist Phil Skelton, who was compelled to take action when two local cyclists were killed following incidents with motorists.

He contacted Mr Cannon, the Galway East TD who is also a keen cyclist with his concerns that, “a worrying amount of drivers seem to have a ‘no contact, no harm’ attitude.”

Pointing to the number of deaths of cyclists in the last few years he said: “It is no longer acceptable to expose our cyclists to huge risks on our roads… this law sets out to significantly reduce those risks.”

“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,”

International laws

Minimum passing laws are not new have been passed in many countries around the world such as in France, Belgium, Portugal, Canada and Australia as well as half of the US states.

A number of different mechanisms have been used in these other jurisdictions to enforce similar laws.

Video footage from cyclists’ own bike-mounted cameras has been used in Australian courts to prove minimum passing, while in the United States, special equipment has been deployed by US police forces.

Theses minimum distance device measures the lateral space around the cyclist and can be used by police officers on bikes to catch motorists breaching minimum distance laws.

Mr Cannon said he did not want to “drive a wedge” between cyclists and motorists, but he wants to raise awareness of the issue and change the behaviour of drivers who did not consider cyclists while overtaking.

He went on to give examples of the smoking ban and plastic bag tax as measures that previously changed public behaviour.

“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,” he said.

Ms Regina Doherty went on to say: “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.”

 


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