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Drivers, keep your distance

Wednesday, 13th November, 2019 4:54pm

A new law protecting cyclists has been relatively well received by a local cycling organisation.

The legislation, which came into effect across the country at midnight on Tuesday, has made it an offence for drivers to dangerously overtake cyclists on the road.

However, exactly what constitutes a dangerous overtake, has left the Cork Cycling Campaign less than entirely convinced as to whether the new legislation will have its desired impact.

Speaking to the Cork Independent, Conn Donovan of Cork Cycling Campaign, welcomed the changes while also highlighting a number of “grey areas”.

Mr Donovan said: “This is part of the problem with the new legislation. The gardaí said that having a specific distance would be 'unenforceable', so they came up with a kind of halfway house.

“It's going to be interesting to see how this develops and what kind of approach the gardaí take.”

The new law states that a car must allow a distance of one metre while passing a cyclist in a 50km per hour or less zone, and a distance of 1.5 metres in zones of more than 50km per hour.

Mr Donovan said that determining speed and distance through eye witnesses or photographic evidence may pose some difficulties to gardaí.

“Cyclists may veer to the left or right suddenly to avoid a pothole or another obstacle, or the wind might blow them. There's a lot of places where cyclist are vulnerable to a collision, but hopefully when you have a car driving behind a cyclist and they go to overtake them, there'll be a less likely chance of them doing so dangerously now,” Mr Donovan explained.

Drivers who are caught in violation of the new law will face a fixed charge penalty of €120 and three penalty points.

Mr Donovan said that he hopes the new law will work towards encouraging more people to cycle on Irish roads but that there’s still a long way to go yet.

He said: “This is a small part of the jigsaw in terms of making the roads safer for vulnerable road users, but this shouldn't be seen the final solution.

“Hopefully, with drivers giving cyclists more space, it will make cycling a more attractive option for people. For recreational cyclist who might use country roads in rural areas, they'll certainly feel more safe.”

The introduction of the new law will be highlighted by the rollout of new signage warning motorists to allow adequate space when overtaking cyclists.

Chief Superintendent Paul Cleary of the Garda National Roads Policing Bureau, said: “Cyclists are one of the most vulnerable road user groups. We welcome these new measures which increases the penalty for drivers that put cyclists at risk. Drivers must give cyclists room to cycle safely, especially when overtaking.”

As part of its ongoing effort to make cycling safer, the Cork Cycling Campaign will be handing out free front and back bike lights at different locations over the coming weeks.

Dates, times and locations will be posted on the group’s social media.

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