Thursday 27 June 2019

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

Philip Skelton
Philip Skelton

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.'

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