Independent Alliance Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross T.D. on Wednesday announced that he will legislate for a Minimum Passing Distance (MPD) in order to make our roads safer for cyclists. In line with best international practice, this will entail an MPD of 1 metre on roads with a speed limit not exceeding 50 km/h and 1.5 metres on all other roads.
The announcement has been warmly welcomed by Sligo Independent Councillor, Marie Casserly who has been campaigning for such a law over the past four years.
Cllr Casserly said, "It's a great decision to keep cyclists safer on our roads. We met Min Ross in August and he committed to the RSA researching this Minimum Passing Distance Legislation in other jurisdictions and on foot of the report he made his decision.
The north Sligo based councillor expressed her thanks to everyone in Sligo who supported this over the recent years including Sligo County Council, Sligo Credit Union, Sligo Sports Partnership, Sligo Cycling, Inishfree Wheelers and other cycling groups.
Speaking on Wednesday Minister Ross said; “I have been extremely concerned about the rise in cyclist fatalities on our roads. In 2017, there were 15 cyclists killed, which was a 50% increase on 2016. Clearly this is an intolerable situation which has to change. Every life lost on our roads is a tragedy and, as Minister for Transport, I am committed to do everything within my power to prevent preventable road deaths.
"It was brought to my attention that other jurisdictions apply a Minimum Passing Distance and I determined to undertake research to see if such legislation would benefit Irish cyclists. I particularly wished to know if the perceived difficulties in enforcing and prosecuting offences relating to MPD legislation were outweighed by the benefits.” 'Safety benefits'
Minister Ross directed the RSA to carry out a study of best international practice and this will be published today on the Department’s website. While the report states that little conclusive evidence is currently available to support or rebut claims that MPD legislation will specifically address cyclist fatalities, greater awareness by both motorists and cyclists while overtaking was recognised as having safety benefits.
Minister Ross said; “If such awareness entails safer driving and fewer fatalities then it will be worth introducing the necessary legislation.”
As all existing overtaking offences are set out in secondary legislation, this is the most appropriate route for introducing an MPD for cyclists. Following their finalisation and approval by the Office of the Attorney General, the regulations will be introduced, once the required equipment for measuring the minimum passing distance has been procured by An Garda Síochana.
Minister Ross added; “I am also proposing that the effectiveness of the new regulations be reviewed twelve months after their introduction.”
In the interim, the Road Safety Authority will be launching an awareness campaign this Friday (weather permitting) recommending that drivers allow at least one metre overtaking distance when passing cyclists in speed zones up to 50 km/h and at least 1.5 metres when passing on roads with speed limits of over 50 km/hour.