Cy­cle over­tak­ing law is ‘rewrit­ten’ rather than ‘re­jected’, says Skel­ton

Wexford People - - NEWS - By ANNA HAYES

CY­CLE SAFETY cam­paigner Philip Skel­ton has de­scribed the Attorney Gen­eral’s re­sponse to the min­i­mum pass­ing dis­tance law as be­ing a case of rewrit­ing, rather than re­ject­ing it.

Mr Skel­ton is the founder of the Stay­ing Alive at 1.5m cam­paign, which called for mo­torists to leave 1.5m on larger roads and 1m on nar­rower roads when over­tak­ing cy­clists. The cam­paign be­gan about five-and-a-half years ago and, in Fe­bru­ary 2018 the Min­is­ter for Trans­port com­mit­ted to bring­ing for­ward leg­is­la­tion for the law.

Last week, it was an­nounced that the Attorney Gen­eral Sea­mus Wolfe had ex­pressed con­cerns about the work­a­bil­ity of the rule and rec­om­mended re­work­ing it.

Mr Skel­ton said that the law was ‘far from shelved’, ad­ding that he had been aware for a while that the leg­is­la­tion was to be re­drafted.

‘The Attorney Gen­eral felt that this rule would not stand up to court chal­lenge; he and the Gardai have looked at it and felt that, as it was, they would, ul­ti­mately, be re­quired to prove the ex­act dis­tance which would be very dif­fi­cult.’

What is be­ing pro­posed in­stead is a new dan­ger­ous over­tak­ing rule that will fo­cus on cy­clists’ safety.

‘The Gardai felt that this would be much eas­ier to pros­e­cute. In the Rules of the Road, the 1.5 and 1m dis­tances have been set down as rec­om­men­da­tions so while they won’t be a statu­tory in­stru­ment I ex­pect that they will be­come a prece­dent.’

He said that, two or three years ago, this news would have dis­ap­pointed him but he was heart­ened by the in­tro­duc­tion of a pro­gramme in the UK and North of Ire­land called Op­er­a­tion Close Pass, a work­ing model aim­ing to ed­u­cate driv­ers on safe driv­ing around cy­clists.

‘The pro­gramme in­volves send­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer out on a bike and if some­one passes too close to them they will be brought in, shown a video of the in­ci­dent, given a vir­tual re­al­ity scene of what the cy­clist ex­pe­ri­enced, and ed­u­cated on the rules. It’s not just about fines, it’s about ed­u­ca­tion.

He added that they had been promised leg­is­la­tion by April, point­ing out that, for the vast ma­jor­ity of driv­ers it would not af­fect them but say­ing that ve­hi­cles whizzing past cy­clists leav­ing lit­tle or no dis­tance be­tween them was not ac­cept­able.

Ire­land, he added, did not have suit­able cy­clist in­fra­struc­ture but the new law would be a tool to po­lice safe driv­ing around cy­clists.

‘The mes­sage to take away here is that the law has not been shelved, just rewrit­ten to be eas­ier to en­force. Peo­ple will be pros­e­cuted un­der this new dan­ger­ous over­tak­ing law.’

Philip Skel­ton.

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