Key issues of concern to cyclists in Irish road traffic law (RTL)

There are a number of legal provisions directly affecting cyclists in Irish road traffic law so what follows is an attempt to describe them and make them more easily understood. References to an Act or SI are provided. Please note we are not legal experts and any comments or advice is given in good faith and not intended as a formal legal interpretation.

Some but not all the relevant legislation is collated and listed (with active links to text of actual legislation) on the Department of Transport web-site at http://transport.ie/roads/legislation/index.asp?lang=ENG&loc=387 and at The Law Reform Commission web-site: http://www.lawreform.ie/_fileupload/RevisedActs/WithAnnotations/EN_ACT_1…

Legal requirements for using a pedal cycle on a public road

A pedal cycle means a bicycle or tricycle in Irish law (a monocycle is not defined) [Road Act, 1961, Art. 3]

A vehicle means a mechanically propelled, animal-drawn or pedal cycle type.

In Irish law a pedal cycle that is intended for use on public roads has to be fitted with audible bell, lights at front (white) and rear (red) and reflector (red - rear) and brake set (front & rear).

There is no corresponding legal duty on the maker or seller of the machine to fit these components, which is perverse.

The lights must be switched on during “lighting-up hours” - this means the period commencing one half-hour after sunset on any day and expiring one half-hour before sunrise on the next day [S.I. No. 189/1963:

Road Traffic (Lighting of Vehicles) Regulations, 1963.] A handy calculator for daylight time in Dublin is here: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/astronomy.html?n=78

Cyclists are now permitted to use LED lights in either continuous or flashing modes. Now “‘lit’ means the emission of a continuous light or a light that flashes not less than 60 times in each minute”. This welcome change was due to successful lobbying by Cyclist.ie. [Road Traffic (Lighting of Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations (SI No. 487 of 2009)]

Do note that if you choose to push your bike on a pavement during lighting-up time it must have lights lit on both front and back - most cyclists do not know this.

You are permitted to cycle two-abreast maximum. However when you come up to parked vehicles or overtake other cyclists you must revert to single-file until past the obstruction. [SI No. 182 of 1997, s. 47 - (1)]

You are not permitted to hang onto another vehicle in order to get a free-ride but you are permitted, in law, to hold onto another pedal cycle provided that there is no rider on it - this enables you to propel a spare bike beside yours! [1961 Act. Art. 100]

When riding a bike on a public road you have a general duty, as a driver of any vehicle has, to drive “with reasonable consideration for other persons using the place” This includes being careful towards pedestrians. [1961 Act. Art. 51 A - (1)]

What about yellow hi-vis and helmet wearing?

There is no legal requirement that you have to wear a hi-vis belt, jacket or jerkin or a helmet. The RSA advises that you should be visible when out in traffic and particularly in darkness. It has the mantra ‘be safe, be seen’. We say that no matter how the rider is dressed up in body armour and lit up like a Christmas tree the critical road safety issue for cyclists is that drivers fail to properly look for us in a 2Pi direction. It is the failure to look that has to be tackled. It is not primarily our conspicuousness that is the issue.

What can happen if you are stopped by a Garda?

A Garda (‘member’ in legislation) can stop you at any time due to him/her having powers of occasional examination, inspection and testing of all vehicles [Art. 20 - (1) of Road Traffic, Act 1961].

A Garda can enter onto curtilege of a premises to follow you but not into the premises (needs a warrant for entry). He/she can subject the bike to testing there and then or later.

You have to provide (1) full name (2) address and (3) d.o.b when requested. Refusal in an offence. The member may take the bike from you using ‘reasonable force’ if needs be. [1961 Act. Art. 108]

Driving a bike under the influence of any intoxicant (ethanol, drug, etc) is an offence but not subject to MAT (that is for motorised drivers only). The member has to form an opinion that you are under the influence and then ask you to perform tests. [1961 Act, Art. 51 - (1) as amended by 1968 Act Art. 48 and 2010 Act Art. 6 - (1)] The key test is: Are you incapable of having proper control of the vehicle?

First offence by summary conviction (District Court) can lead to a maximum fine of €2000. You can be arrested without a warrant. [2010 Act Art. 6]

Cyclists need to understand that the law for them in relation to intoxication is potentially more severe than having four penalty-points added to a driving license!

Dangerous Overtaking

How many times have you been passed where the driver has brushed against your elbow or shoulder but you have not been knocked off your bike? This type of driving is an offence set out in SI No. 182 of 1997. s. 10 and it is not being taken seriously by An Garda in relation to drivers overtaking cyclists far too fast and close (skimming past riders). Here is what the law says:

  1. (1) A driver shall not overtake, or attempt to overtake, if to do so would endanger, or cause inconvenience to, any other person.

(2) A driver shall not overtake, or attempt to overtake, unless the roadway ahead of the driver—

( a ) is free from approaching traffic, pedestrians and any obstruction, and

( b ) is sufficiently long and wide to permit the overtaking to be completed without danger or inconvenience to other traffic or pedestrians.

It is a stated penalty-point offence with 2 points and a fine of €80.

If a motor vehicle comes too close to you or cuts suddenly in front of you at a junction or brushes against you while you are in a bus or cycle lane then at the very least you should require the Garda taking details to charge the driver using this offence.

We call repeatedly for the Garda to get real about this daily transgression but we are simply ignored.

This is another reason why we need you to join us because in that way we will have more fire-power.

Do I have to use a cycle lane/track/path where one is provided?

In short - No!

The tendentious ‘mandatory-use’ provision of SI No. 182 of 1997 s. 14 - (3) “All pedal cycles must be driven on a cycle track where one is provided” was repealed in 2012 after successful lobbying by Cyclist.ie and Dublin Cycling Campaign over many years. We take full credit for its repeal. It was a tough fight.

However we doubt that An Garda members have been briefed about its repeal. Bus, coach and taxi drivers certainly don’t know or accept that it has gone as witnessed by the abuse cyclists are getting when they cycle in the bus lane on say the N11 where there is a parallel off-road cycle path.

What do I do if I am involved in an accident or incident?

First thing to say it is an extremely frightening experience to be involved in actual impact (road traffic collision or RTC) with a motorised vehicle. It is a major existential and elemental fright simply because you are really vulnerable with no steel body-shell around you, no seat-belt and no air-bag protection so this means the flight/fight hormonal response is at maximum assuming you have survived the initial bang! Drivers have no understanding of what it’s like to be an unprotected driver as they are very cocooned in the cab.

When faced with a RTC you need to keep-your-wits about you if still ambulatory. Do NOT let the driver go off blurting out words like: “I’m OK it’s just a scratch or bruise, I’ll be all right you can go”! Remember the hormonal response is massive so you don’t feel pain initially but shock soon sets in and you may find that you are seriously injured with a broken wrist or collar bone.

The frame of your bike may be bent out-of-alignment and you will only find out later when you bring it to a repair-shop.

Many riders assume that they have been responsible for their own fall of the bike and so feel guilty and so dismiss the driver from the scene.

You need to bear in mind that international road traffic safety research shows that fully 70% of RTCs are the fault of the driver and not the cyclist. Drivers generally are driving far too close to cyclists (dangerous overtaking) and at an inappropriate speed for your vulnerability so it is no surprise when impact takes place.

A driver is required by law to stop and then remain at the scene of an RTC for a reasonable period of time [1961 Act, Art. 106]

(4) In this section “appropriate information” means the name and address of the person required by this section to give such information, the name and address of the owner of the vehicle of which such person is the driver or is in charge, the identification mark of such vehicle under the Roads Act, 1920, or any other enactment and particulars of the insurance or guarantee of the vehicle pursuant to this Act.

(5) The persons entitled under this section to demand the appropriate information are—

(a) in the case of injury to a person, that person or, where that person is killed or incapacitated, any one other person for the time being having charge of the person so injured by reason of family relationship, the relationship of master and servant or otherwise,

(b) in the case of injury to property, the owner of the property or, where the owner of the property is killed or injured or is not present, any one person having charge of the property,

Get this information written down or if you are too distressed ask a witness to do it for you.

If you are in any way injured or shocked (distress counts as injury) then call the Garda.

Leave your bike where it landed and note the position of the motorised vehicle(s).

Take an image(s) using your smart-phone or a camera. If you don’t have a camera ask a bystander to take an image(s).

The lesson is clear: only let the driver go when you have captured all this information and the Garda agrees to their quitting the scene.

What do I do to ensure Garda act if I cite a driver for impacting, brushing against me or dangerously overtaking me?

Assuming that you have not had an actual impact (i.e. a RTC) with a motorised vehicle and it was an ‘incident’, such as ‘dangerous overtaking’, where a driver has brushed his/her vehicle against your elbows or shoulders or has cut in suddenly in front of you causing you to brake hard or swerve to avoid impact, then you should cite the driver for dangerous overtaking with the Garda in charge at the appropriate Garda station.

We will assume the driver didn’t stop and has gone out of sight. Try and memorise the vehicle registration plate number; make and model of vehicle (in case of a bus or coach the operator’s name and service number and write it down. If you don’t have paper and pencil use your smart-phone notebook pages. Take at least one image (from direction of your travel). If its a bus, cycle or general vehicle lane note the width(s) measured from kerb face to centre of any white line. Note the place and time before you leave the scene.

The Garda will ask you if you wish to make a statement in writing. What normally happens is that the member bring you to an interview room and will write it all longhand on a special form as you dictate it and at the end will ask you to read it and make amendments before agreeing it with you and obtaining your signature. Do not be rushed into this. You can say you need to go off and compose your thoughts, take photos and measurements of scene, etc and that you will return with a formal typed and illustrated statement.

If a bus or coach (Bus Eireann) was involved you need to specifically request that the garda contact the bus/coach operator to have the CCTV camera footage secured so that it is not wiped - the operators use cameras that overwrite on the memory card after four days.

Be sure to ask the Garda for his/her rank insignia Number (record it) and to give you the Pulse Log ID for the complaint/incident/accident report. Without the Pulse ID the complaint/report may not make its way into the system.

What happens next is that the investigating member will copy the CCTV camera footage from the bus/coach allegedly involved and review the footage in the Garda station. You will be invited in at some stage to jointly review the alleged incident footage. Bear in mind that in-vehicle cameras have short focal-length lenses so perspective is quite distorted and the incident may not appear as dramatic as it was experienced by you at the time. Many buses may have only front-facing cameras so if it was the tail of the bus/coach that swept past you it will not be seen on-camera. The swept-path of a vehicle may not be apparent on the video.

What happens next depends on the Superintendent in-charge of the station. He/she decides on the basis of your statement and any response from the alleged driver (in the absence of wittnesses) whether or not to issue a penalty-point notice to the driver or issue a summons for an appearance in the District Court. Our experience is that without a Garda actually witnessing the alleged incident and understanding the nature of it in relation to cyclists’ safety it will not be processed beyond the Super. Sad but true and an illustration about ‘institutional blindness’ among An Garda to the real road safety needs of cyclists.

Am I allowed to creep up on the inside of a stationary row of traffic?

In a word: Yes!

Again thanks to our lobbying the government enacted an amending regulation that permits cyclists to undertake (on left) a stationary row of motor vehicles: [S.I. No. 332/2012 - Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2012]

(b) “A pedal cyclist may overtake on the left where vehicles to the pedal cyclist’s right are stationary or are moving more slowly than the overtaking pedal cycle, except where the vehicle to be overtaken—

(i) has signalled an intention to turn to the left and there is a reasonable expectation that the vehicle in which the driver has signalled an intention to turn to the left will execute a movement to the left before the cycle overtakes the vehicle,

(ii) is stationary for the purposes of permitting a passenger or passengers to alight or board the vehicle, or

(iii) is stationary for the purposes of loading or unloading.”

Again this is why we need you to join our campaign. Pulling off these changes takes time, energy and funding.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Help us do more for cycling in Dublin, please consider getting involved.