Ross and gardaí fail to answer questions about enforcement
CONFUSION surrounds proposed procycling minimum passing distance laws and how they will be enforced, with the minister responsible and gardaí unable to answer basic questions on the issue.
Campaigners have raised the prospect that members of the public and gardaí on bicycles will mount devices on their vehicles to capture misbehaving motorists – but gardaí have failed to respond to queries about the new rules.
The law would require motorists to give 1.5m of space to cyclists when they are overtaking above 50kph, and 1m when overtaking at speeds less than 50kph.
A spokeswoman for Transport Minister Shane Ross admitted the question as to who would be in the wrong in the picture above at Doyle’s Corner in Phibsboro in Dublin, where a cyclist is between two lanes, is being dealt with by Dáil drafters and was one she couldn’t answer.
Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Robert Troy, who introduced similar legislation, was also unable to answer questions in relation to enforcement, in particular if a cyclist comes between a line of traffic. Instead, he said the minister should look at how it is enforced in other jurisdictions.
In January, Minister Ross had doubts about how a minimum passing distance law would be enforced. ‘We are looking at it, it has difficulties. It was tried in Australia and elsewhere,’ he told the Irish Times. ‘The problem is proof, the problem is enforcement. I do not want to introduce a measure that is basically unenforceable. How do you prove someone is 1.5m away? That is very hard to prove.’
However, the minister has since backed the law. When asked about how it would be enforced, particularly in relation to when a cyclist was between lines of traffic, his spokeswoman said: ‘Provisions are currently with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for consideration and settling, while legal advice is also being sought in respect of those provisions.’
Gardaí seem unaware of how they will deal with drivers who break it. On March 1, the MoS asked the Garda Síochána what equipment had been procured for enforcement, how much it would cost, and what training has been provided. The MoS followed up with repeated calls and emails No response has been forthcoming, six weeks later.
Cycling campaigner Phil Skelton, who lobbied for the law, said that while it was difficult to enforce, it was not about penalising every motorist who broke the law.
‘A C3FT device [which records the distance of a vehicle from a bike] can be mounted on bicycles to detect the passing distance of passing vehicles, as well as capture their registration plate using a [camera]. It’s enforced in lots of different ways using bike cam footage but the whole idea is not about penalising every motorist, it’s to underscore a message,’ he said.
He said in the US use of the C3FT normally led to education for the driver rather than a penalty.
President of the Irish Road Haulage Association, Verona Murphy, said the law had significant issues.
‘The driver has taken a theory test and a practical test before they use the road, which can’t be said of the cyclist. The only liability is on the driver. It doesn’t reference where the cyclist is on the road and there’s no guarantee the cyclist knows the rules of the road.
‘All parties and road users need to respect each other and I’m not sure that’s on the agenda with this. It’s a bad law,’ she said. ‘It’s only one side that the law is being imposed on. It’s worrying that the minister doesn’t have knowledge.’
‘I don’t want a law that is unenforceable’