The Dublin Cycling Campaign is an independent, voluntary lobby group that has been working to improve the city for all cyclists for over a decade and a half.
Legal Aspects of Cycling in Ireland
Legal Status of The Dublin Cycling Campaign (DCC)
The Dublin Cycling Campaign (The Campaign or DCC - but not to be confused with the same acronym used by Dublin City Council to describe itself!) is a registered company, limited by guarantee and having no share capital. In was incoprorated in 2001. It is registered under the Companies Registration Office No.
The current (2009) directors are: Will Andrews, Mike McKillen, Damien O'Tuama, Paschal Comerford, ????? (tbc)
The income of the Campaign comes primarily from membership subscriptions and sales of hi-vis vests and other safety aids to members. The Campaign is listed in the IPA 'Yearbook and Diary' under the Social and Community organisations category.
Road Traffic Law in Ireland
The first thing that can be said about road traffic law in Ireland is that it is non-coherent and badly in need of codification! It is riddled with inconsistencies and tends to lag behind in adapting to technological advances in society. For instances LED-type flashing lights mounted and used on bikes are not legal - the permitted light source has to emit a continuous beam. The EU Commission has many legal cases in the pipeline against Ireland dealing with road safety and transport for failure to transpose EU Directives into national legislation.
The legislation comes in the form of primary Acts and secondary Regulations made under an act. The legislation can be readily accessed at this URL: www.irlgov.ie/ag
The database is searchable.
Irish RTL legislation is also summarised on the Department of Transport's web-site at this URL: http://www.transport.ie/roads/legislation/index.asp?lang=ENG&loc=387
This web-site has the advantage that any new legislation (as a Bill) being brought forward will be listed here.
Most of the legislation has been abstracted and listed at this URL: http://273k.net/cycling/cyclinglegislation.html
A useful introduction to case law outcomes dealing with road traffic law (RTL) is the monograph by Robert Pierse (1997), 'Road Traffic Law', Butterworths, Dublin.
At the outset, it is important to note that cyclists, in riding a bike, are driving a vehicle in both Irish (Road Traffic Act, 1961) and international (UN Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, 1968) law. Too few cyclists seem to be aware of this legal status. A bike rider is not a pedestrian on wheels! A cyclist is also by law classified as traffic whereas a pedestrian is not traffic.
The Rules of The Road purport to provide a simple overview of the legislation for drivers and pedestrians. They can be read (in many languages) at this URL: www.rsa.ie
The Campaign and 'Cyclist.ie' are far from happy with the information and advice presented about cycling in the Rules of The Road publication. It fails signally to bring home to drivers that cyclists are the most vulnerable of all in traffic and therefore a driver of a mechanically propelled vehicle (mpv) has got to to interact with cyclists with particular care. The two organisations continue to lobby the RSA on an ongoing basis to bring about change.
Roads authorities are responsible for designing, building and operating all roads in Ireland under the Roads Act (1993). Roads authorities comprise local authorities such as Dublin City Council (www.dublincity.ie), the National Roads Authority (NRA at www.nra.ie), The Quality Bus Network Office (http://www.dublincity.ie/RoadsandTraffic/QBNProjectOffice/Pages/QBNProje...) and in limited circumstances, the Rail Procurement Agency (RPA at www.rpa.ie) where trams share the track bed with cyclists.
The Roads Act, 1961 at s. 13. (5) states that ..... In the performance of their functions under subsections (1) and (2), a road authority shall consider the needs of all road users.
The Campaign finds that roads authorities are more honouring this powerful clause in the breach than the observance. Because cyclists are the most vulnerable of all drivers in traffic there is an onus on roads authorities to design and operate roads to fully take the particular safety needs of cyclists into account. What we find is that roads are mostly designed for mpv drivers needs. This must change. It is not acceptable where stated national policy is to encourage a modal shift away from the use of private cars to the bicycle in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions coming from transport and travel.
Speed limits are set by a road authority but where a National Primary route comes through a town or city the local authority requires permission from the NRA to alter the design maximum speed. This requirement for NRA permission has limited the application of 30 kph maximum speed limits in many urban areas. A 30 kph speed limit is a 'special limit' in any case and the local authority has to enact a bye-law to give legal effect to one. Local authorities are willing to enact them but resistance comes from the Garda authorities who do not really want to enforce them as they will be comprehensively ignored by the majority of drivers. This is an 'irish solution to an Irish problem' - is it any wonder that road traffic law is so scandalously flouted and poorly enforced (pace the failure of Garda to prosecute cyclists breaking red lights!) in Ireland?
Excessive vehicle speeds for the road type and the environment and dangerous overtaking are arguably the main road safety issues for cyclists. There is a clear relationship between vehicle speed at impact with a vulnerable road user (cyclists or pedestrian) and the outcome from the collision - the cyclist may survive the impact, albeit it with serious injuries, if the speed at impact is less than 60 kph. If greater than 60 kph then the fatality incidence approaches 100% whereas at 30 kph it is about 10 % [see Swedish National Road Safety Research Agency] This is the main reason why cyclists seek a 30 kph maximum speed limit in all urban areas and around schools.
All drivers are required to drive with due care and consideration for other road usrs. However too many drivers, particularly bus, coach and taxi drivers sharing bus lanes with cyclists are overtaking by 'skimming' past the cyclist and inducing fear in the rider. This is called dangerous overtaking and it is a scheduled road traffic law offence. S.I. No. 182 of 1997 defines dangerous overtaking. [see section #?? for more information on this road safety issue.]
Road Safety Audits
Roads authorities undertake road safety audits of new and upgraded schemes. We know that the National Roads Authority has published guidance on these audits in its “Design Manual for Roads and Bridges. (Volume 5 Section 2)” [see - http://www.tfl.gov.uk/businessandpartners/publications/2766.aspx]
Road Safety Audit: The evaluation of road
schemes during design and construction to
identify potential safety hazards which may affect
any type of road user before the scheme is opened
to traffic, and to suggest measures to eliminate or
mitigate those problems. This is a formal process
involving signed written reports.
Dublin City Council started using RSAs in 1999.
There are three stages to a RSA: stage 1 is at design, stage 2 is implementation and stage 3 is post-implementation. The audits are to be performed by competent persons. And not by scheme design team engineers.
A Safety Audit Team should comprise at least two
people who are independent of the Design Team.
This independence is vital to ensure that the
Design Team does not influence the
recommendations of the Safety Audit and
therefore compromise safety at the expense of
another issue. Team members should have recent
relevant experience of undertaking Safety Audits
and should also have more general road safety
The audit is supposed to evaluate the scheme safety in relation to end users – vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.
The NRA RSA guidance states:
The Safety Audit Team observers may sign the
Audit Report, but they are not obliged to sign it. A
suggested working method for undertaking Stage
3 Road Safety Audits is as follows:
• the Safety Audit Team visits the site during
• the Safety Audit Team walks, drives and,
where appropriate, cycles, along and across
• one Team Member takes notes of all the
possible safety points;
We have no evidence that the auditors actually do cycle the schemes in Dublin City.
The Quality Bus Network (QBN) Office [see http://www.dublincity.ie/RoadsandTraffic/QBNProjectOffice/Pages/QBNProje... ] undertakes most of the cycling facilities design since cyclists are sharing bus lanes with buses and taxis.
What can we do to bring about change?
The Campaign has come to the view that only a judicial review type court challenge to a road authority will bring about change in how the roads can be made more comfortable and safer for cyclists.