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Saturday 10 December 2016

Carol Hunt: We need to enforce cycling laws - I don't want to get hit again

New rules for cyclists
New rules for cyclists

Nearly one misdemeanor a minute. That was the result of an ad-hoc sample survey which found 22 cyclists breaking traffic rules during a 30-minute period at College Green last Friday evening. Oh dear.

Seeing as the new fixed charge fines for cyclists were introduced that day, that means a minimum of €880 worth of fines for the exchequer – at least €40 a pop per offender.

That should put manners on those cyclists who insist on breaking lights, cycling “without reasonable consideration” or neglecting to add lights to their bikes – to name just a few offences.

It should make the roads safer for pedestrians, motorists and cyclists alike. Well done, the Ministry for Transport, for once we have a practical initiative that isn’t just lip-service but actually works.

Tracked

Some gardai though, don’t think these measures go far enough. They want a registration system to be introduced so that bad behaviour can be tracked. They may have a point.

But for the moment, I guess that many of us poor pedestrians and motorists who have been left roaring as cyclists nearly run us over on pavements or barrel merrily through red lights are relieved that something is being done.

Those 22 cyclists will hopefully learn their lesson and make the road a safer place for all of us. It’s a start, isn’t it?

But wait, what’s that? All of the cyclists got off scot-free? They were allowed go on their merry way to sin again?

None of them had to hand over so much as a bicycle clip let alone €40? Well, what on earth was the point then?

But of course. This is Ireland, where we have all manner of laws and rules and things that we’re supposed to do and not do, but where we often forget to put in the necessary infrastructure to ensure that these laws are kept.

Will we get extra gardai to police these new laws? I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Unfortunately this is also a country where people are apt to do things that are against the law if they know they’ll get away with it.

In this case, the traffic police are the ones that should be issuing fines to bold cyclists.

Now, I know we have a shortage of gardai in this country and that there are communities hit by increasing levels of crime which are just screaming for the gardai to patrol their areas and show their uniforms on occasion.

Of course, I know that many people believe that cyclists breaking traffic law isn’t really a ‘proper’ offence. It’s not like a car being driven without insurance or a person with five pints of Guinness inside them speeding home on the motorway.

Yes, some people think that the poor, persecuted cyclists shouldn’t have to obey any road laws at all. “Sure when was the last time a cyclist killed anyone on a road?”, they say (and they have a point).

But, cyclists need to obey traffic laws too. Now, before you all start getting on your high (nelly) horses about my appalling intolerance, I will make the point that I think the recent huge increase in cyclists is fantastic.

Anything that has people leaving the car at home and getting on a bike to get to work has to be celebrated. It’s better for our health, it’s better for the environment, it’s a fantastic example for our children.

But cyclists are not above to the law. Here I have to admit that in my youth – as a dedicated cyclist – I broke the law repeatedly.

Abandon

Red light? Pah! Only there for motorists. I used to to cycle through them with abandon.

Helmets? Was I really going to risk that blow-dry? Not a chance. And as for cycling on footpaths? Well, how else was I supposed to avoid all that traffic?

Since those years I have been humbled. Twice, I have been hit by rogue cyclists breaking the law. My kids have bruises from encounters.

So I now make an appeal to cyclists: please take note of the new laws.

The gardai may not be there to take your name and address – but the rest of us poor pedestrians are depending on you to abide by the rules.

Go on. The ride isn’t worth the risk of the fine is it?

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