herald

Friday 28 April 2017

Questions over plan to fine drivers too close to cyclists €80

David Gibbons (8) with a photo of his father James, who was killed on the roads in 2008,
during the vigil in Dublin
David Gibbons (8) with a photo of his father James, who was killed on the roads in 2008, during the vigil in Dublin

Transport Minister Shane Ross has asked his officials to consider the "feasibility" of Fine Gael's radical proposal to fine motorists driving too close to cyclists.

Questions have been raised about how the planned law will be enforced and the possible need for more funding for gardai.

The Bill, proposed by Fine Gael TDs Ciaran Cannon and Regina Doherty, would see drivers fined €80 and given three penalty points if they are caught overtaking cyclists at a distance of less than 1.5 metres.

Mr Cannon announced the Bill, saying that it will "create a safe space on our roads where cyclists can feel protected from passing traffic".

A spokeswoman for Independent Alliance minister Mr Ross said he is "encouraging the Department to look at the feasibility" of the plan.

Detail

Fianna Fail transport spokesman Robert Troy said his party would not be ideologically opposed to the suggestion but that he wants "more detail".

He asked what would happen on roads that are not wide enough for cars to pass at distances of more than 1.5m and added: "Like any road safety legislation, enforcement is key."

He said he looked forward to discussing the proposed law at an Oireachtas committee.

Imelda Munster, Sinn Fein's transport spokeswoman, also said her party will consider the law, saying: "We all have to accept cycle safety is paramount."

However, she raised concerns at the lack of a national network of cycle lanes that would help in the introduction of a minimum distance law.

She also said she would seek assurance that the Garda Traffic Corps would be given additional funding to enforce the measure. Similar laws have been passed in several other jurisdictions, including around half of US states. There, police officers have devices on their bikes that measure the lateral space around the cyclist.

Conor Faughnan, the AA's director of consumer affairs, said he agrees with the "thrust and intention" of the proposals but suggested there should be greater enforcement of the existing offences of driving a car without due care and attention.

Vigil

The Fine Gael proposal was announced as families of road death victims held a vigil outside the Dail in memory of their loved ones as part of a campaign to seek stronger punishments for reckless drivers.

Members of the Irish Road Victims Association placed photographs of dozens of people who have died on Irish roads at the gates of Leinster House.

They were later joined by hundreds of bike users from the Dublin Cycling campaign, who want 10pc of the Government's transport budget allocated to cycling infrastructure.

Dubliner Aoife Martin is a member of both groups. Her mother Maureen (52), died after she was hit by a truck on a left turn on the Navan Road in 2008. She said losing her mother was a "harrowing experience" that she would "never like to see happen to anyone else".

She is in favour of Fine Gael's Bill, saying such a law could promote "mutual respect" between drivers and cyclists.

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