2014 saw a dramatic rise in Ireland of cyclist fatalities. A total of 12 cyclists died on Irish roads, marking a massive 240% increase over 2013 figures. 2015 hasn't been much better, with 9 cyclists fatalities. This was accompanied by a dramatic 59pc increase in injuries among cyclists. We as a country, need to do everything in our power to aim these horrific road deaths towards zero. Minimum Passing Distance Law (MPDL) can act as a vital tool in the bigger tool box of changes we can make to help achieve this aim.
Other jurisdictions who have witnessed such alarming increases have seen fit to enact safe overtaking laws pertaining to cyclists. These now include 26 US states, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Sth Australia, Queensland, NSW, ACT Australia etc.
Video of Queensland's implementation of its trial of this safe overtaking law: http://youtu.be/I7yYikzTBsA
Some initial feedback from the Queensland trial below:
Stayin' Alive at 1.5 website for further info below:
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***************HELP CYCLISTS STAY SAFE ON IRISH ROADS!***************
As a cyclist, and vulnerable road user the need for self preservation makes you ride defensively, taking every possible danger in to account. The only danger that you can’t see is the one that is coming from behind. Cyclists hope that other road users overtaking are obeying the road rules and keeping their distance, but unfortunately at the moment, that distance is not defined. This creates a situation where cyclists take to the roads with a great degree of uncertainty. Having a defined passing distance of 1.5 metres would provide certainty for motorists, avoiding the problem of some drivers judging incorrectly and passing too close to a cyclist.
Put simply, 1.5 metres matters because it provides a clear, practical measurement for drivers when overtaking bike riders and changes a subjective, nebulous test into an objective measurable distance.
There are several other reasons too as to why this rule is important to members of the cycling community. The left side of the road where cyclists are expected to cycle is normally the part of the road where pot-holes are and debris and glass accumulate. In urban areas it’s the section of road that most likely will have drainage and man-holes. Bicycle tyres are narrow and puncture more easily than other vehicles so ideally the cyclist will try to avoid these hazards. Crosswinds too cause cyclists to slightly deviate from a predicted line. Some steep hills also cause slight wobbles in the effort to stay balanced. In a nutshell bicycles are not cars, they are less predictable, they travel more slowly and can’t see what’s behind them. They swerve to avoid obstacles and they have no steel shell or air bags to protect them. I seems obvious that for the rules of the road to be respected, they need to be clear.
This 1.5 metre rule would help to create an environment of safer cycling across the board giving cyclists a 1.5 metre cushion when being passed by a motorist. It is also a great piece of legislation to educate the public about how much space to leave when safely passing a cyclist. Put simply government and the Gardaí would have a standard to measure what is a safe overtake in relation to cyclists.
Furthermore the passing of the safe overtaking law would acknowledge cyclists as legitimate road users, a point not shared by some motorists.
Enacting the 1.5 metre safe overtaking law would also serve back up the Road Safety Authority’s recommendation.
What would this law mean for Irish cyclists?
It would mean improved safety by providing a definition of a specified overtaking distance.
It would recognise cyclists as legitimate road users who are more vulnerable than other drivers.
It would recognise a cyclist’s need to the protection of a defined space whilst sharing the road with other road users.
It would provide motorists with a clear, unambiguous, easily recognised measure when overtaking cyclists – otherwise motorists must slow down and wait.
It could reduce the risk of cyclist/motorist crashes and also cyclist crashes caused by being side-swiped (not necessarily hit) by motor vehicles.
It would be enforceable, in that such a clear law would allow a Garda or witness to readily evaluate a driver’s actions either through eyewitness or camera footage.
It would provide cyclists with space to avoid obstacles (e.g. pot-holes, glass, etc.)
It would ultimately assist in reducing cyclist fatalities and serious injuries.
Queensland offered a trial of Minimum Passing Distance Law in April 2014. Factually speaking they initiated MPDL following 23 cyclist fatalities between 2012 and 2014.
In the trial period over a similar timeframe this number has dropped to 14.
During this time 72 drivers were fined for not keeping a safe distance from bicycle riders. The majority of these were from camera footage submitted to the police.
A large cycling group there has stated that 66% of their members felt safer on the road and attributed that directly to MPDL.
Drivers also reported being more aware of cyclists on the road.
The full evaluation can be seen here http://eprints.qut.edu.au/94655/
While the main objuctive of MPDL is awareness, this awareness needs to be underscored and crystallised as law for its full effect to take hold and hence this needs to be enforceable as it is in many jurisdictions overseas. What definitely is not enforceable is our current overtaking law where there is no recorded infringement of a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre of a cyclist where no collision has occurred. Should we just remain 'happy' with that status quo.
Queensland trialled Minimum passing distance law and recorded 72 convictions there, mostly from cyclist camera footage so yes, it's enforceable. There is also an ultrasonic device being used by police in the US to detect dangerous overtaking. Some doubters also suggest that it's impossible in Ireland due to our narrow roads. Ireland we do not have the monopoly on narrow roads; there are several in Spain, Belgium etc and they have MPDL in place.