Safe Cycling Ireland

Making Irish roads Safer For Everyone

Misunderstanding & Misinformation Part 3 of 3 – Road Rules/Licencing.

Misunderstanding & Misinformation Part 3 of 3 – Road Rules/Licencing.

Galway City Tribune article.

(This is part 3 of a 3 part blog. This one deals with road rules and licensing as referred to in the above article)


each cyclist should be given a copy of the Rules of the Road from the bike shop in the same way as a motorist has to know them to get a licence


Thought process


The thinking behind this type of comment appears to go like this:
“I see lots of cyclists breaking the law, and I hear about cyclists getting hurt – which is no wonder, because they break the law; THEY break the rules of the road”


These perceptions can be hard to counter – even more so when cyclists are being loudly trumpeted as being a ‘rogue road user’.


Is cyclist error or even lawlessness the major cause of collisions between bikes and cars?
Let’s take the anecdote out of this and go down the road of researched referenced fact.



Fact: up to 80% of collisions involving cyclists, primary fault lies with motorist.


When we discuss rules of the road, it is very easy to point fingers at other transport modes. The current whipping boy in this regard seems to be the cyclist despite international research telling us that rules of the road knowing motorists have primary fault in up to 80% of crashes involving bicycle riders…

Irish research unfortunately is weak in this area but when you look at other countries with a similar road culture and driving conditions as our own, this reveals a different story.
Indeed a whole range of studies have found that when cars and bikes collide, it is overwhelmingly the driver who is to blame.

A study of the role of traffic violations in bicycle crashes in Queensland by CARRS-Q concluded that: “While driver perceptions are of cyclists being mavericks on the road, the crash data does not support this position … this research demonstrates a cyclist is unlikely to commit a traffic violation that results in a single vehicle crash, or collision with another road user.”


1. Adelaide University report which found that motorists were at fault in 79 per cent of the cases studied where cyclists had been seriously injured in collisions with cars. That’s almost four out of five times.


2. Research by the New Zealand Ministry of Transport found that, in car/bike injury collisions, cyclists were primarily responsible 23 per cent of the time, and had some responsibility 14 per cent of the time. No cyclist fault was identified in 63 per cent of cases.


3. A study by the UK Department of Transport found that, when adult cyclists were in collision with cars, the driver was solely responsible in about 60-75 per cent of all cases, and riders were solely at fault 17-25 per cent of the time.


4. A recent study of central London drew similar conclusions. One interesting aspect was that pedestrians were found to be at fault in 60 per cent of the cases where riders and walkers collided.


False equivalence 


To many it just doesn’t seem fair that they themselves had to jump through some hoops to get a license to drive and for good reason too…
Propelling a ton and a half of a vehicle responsible for the deaths of roughly 1.25 million people per annum worldwide definitely should require some form of licensing.


The thinking is that if cyclists want the right to the road, then they should be licensed.
Cyclist have had this right—before the automobile. Like pedestrians and equestrians, they aren’t required to be registered.

The first automobiles weren’t licensed, either.

Only after motorists began amassing an appalling record of injuries and fatalities did states begin imposing licensing and registration laws. The rules were not applied to walkers and cyclists because they weren’t thought to be dangerous—and they still are not.


With this comes the notion of false equivalence.

No bicycle rider in Ireland has killed another road user in over 15 years to my knowledge but this notion of equivalence is one you hear of regularly; you hear people say a lot is that it should all be equal, it should all be exactly the same.
And it’s a very seductive idea, – we should all equally be responsible on the road. It’s a seductive idea because we’re all taught from childhood that you should share equally, that everything should be fair.

Except for the fact that the threat of a bicycle and a motor vehicle isn’t equal. So the idea that two people should have the same responsibility when one of them poses a vastly greater danger than the other is potentially an issue.


Let’s drill down deeper in to this.


According to a recent poll from Cycling Ireland, 90% of adult riders are also drivers. On the flip side according to the AA, just 10% of their members are cyclists.

This means that a cyclist is much more likely to know what it’s like to drive than what an average motorist knows what it feels like to cycle.

In the Netherlands for example, the fact that everyone cycles, or knows someone who does, means that drivers are more sympathetic to cyclists when they have to share space on the roads.

This lack of mutual understanding and empathy is a large part of the problem.
It’s far from the whole problem but it’s certainly a big factor.
When I learned to drive, I was taught little if anything about cyclists rights on the road and this isn’t a one size fits all situation where what you do as a motorist is exactly what is safe as a cyclist.
There are situations such as approaching a single lane roundabout, passing parked cars, approaching a bend on the road etc. where it can be safer for a bicycle rider to take the lane and ride centrally. However when you just drive, this can look like someone being selfish who won’t let you past.


Remember, This is about road safety, not about trying to accommodate hurried, dangerous driving.
With this in mind, when you ride a bicycle, you learn to ride defensively either through bitter personal experience or from reading up on these matters.
You also come across this information in the cycle right, cycling instructor manual. This programme is produced and supported by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Road Safety Authority and Cycling Ireland, with input from central and local agencies and other groups.
But as regards to shared information with the wider road sharing community, it is the equivalent of the Third secret of Fatima.
Cycling Ireland are to embark on a series of videos that might help this situation. Again, like all such matters, it’s not a panacea, but it is another little piece of a giant jig-saw.
This information needs to be added to the Rules of the Road for motorists so that needless frustration isn’t caused.
Better still if a cycling element was added to the overall driving test.


Again, we are not alone in this respect. Across the pond in the U.K., there are similar road cultures and cycling conditions as what we have in Ireland.
This is an article That attempts to explain why motorists are sometimes baffled or infuriated by cyclists’ behaviour. The fact that this has to be communicated through this medium rather than in an official capacity says a lot about the weakness of the overall licensing system.


Road rule cherry picking


We also must remember that the rules of the road aren’t an a la carte menu. These are rules that are set down to keep us all safe. As time goes on, more get added and others get clarified. For cyclists for example, a traffic law was amended in 2012 where a pedal cyclist may overtake on the left where vehicles to the pedal cyclist’s right are stationary or are moving more slowly than the overtaking pedal cycle.
1.5 meters of recommended safe passing space for bicycles was added to the last edition of the rules of the road. However, if you’ve sat your driving test before 2012 as the vast majority of drivers have, well you never need to come in contact with this information. Is there then a need for more regular theory testing to allow for such updates and amendments?


When we discuss bicycle riders, the first thing that comes up is they break red lights. Absolutely, some people on bikes do and I don’t condone this, but bicycle riders will tell you why they do this is mostly to get a head start on traffic so that they are all not starting off together. This is a situation where many riders get frightened. I’m not condoning it, just trying to explain.


The same let’s say could be said for motorists who overtake bicycle riders on continuous white lines. That would be illegal unless doing so for access or in an emergency and as you will see in this clip below, a hell of a lot of emergencies must be happening.
This is something drivers have seen as ok to do and has become normalised. (It is also a situation that is dealt with as part of the introduction of a minimum passing distance law but more on that later).




Isn’t it ironic?


What I do find ironic though is that a meeting where a Garda Chief Super incorrectly answered a question on a specific rule of the road, is that someone would suggest that cyclists should be given a copy of the Rules of the Road..🤔
Just let that sink in for a minute…😏

But also let this sink in.

In 1979 anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 driving licences were given out to those who had never taken a test. There had been a lengthy postal strike and no applications could be received or posted. Not many had telephones back then (two years to get one installed), so tests could not even be arranged by phone. This led to a huge backlog. The then Environment Minister, Sylvester Barrett decided the best way to sort it out was to declare an amnesty. So a full driving licence was given to candidates who held a second provisional licence, as it was called then.

This means that a hell of a lot of motorists in their mid to late 50s in Ireland have never sat a driving test…

Has there been any research done into how many collisions this cohort of drivers has been involved in?


…and then we have advanced driver training which aims to reduce road accidents by improving driving standards, knowledge and skill.

Why isn’t this the standard driving test?


When it comes to cyclists and the rules of the road, cycling Ireland has introduced the excellent cycle right programme initially aimed at primary school children. Learning the rules of the road are part of this and this is seen as the best way to approach this in line with what other countries are doing.
Again, this is not the panacea, but another piece of the giant jig-saw.


Lion taming lessons and the cyclist road safety jig-saw puzzle.


Absolutely, it is important to give our children what has been described as the equivalent of lion taming lessons. To create the full jig-saw puzzle, we also need to busy ourselves with putting up fences in the zoo.


The ‘zoo’ though is where the core of this problem lies.


Only today this post from a cycle right instructor was added to their Facebook page.

These kids are primary school kids trying to learn the craft of safe cycling in these conditions..!!


Lion taming lessons and putting up fences in the zoo


Let’s be clear here; The first of these are physical fences in the form of Dutch style safe dedicated, integrated and separated infrastructure.

The metaphorical fences though are something we need to tackle immediately;
Cyclist specific hate speech, Uninformed and Illegitimate views of bicycle riders, rabble rousing meetings where people themselves have to ask what the rules of the road are and are subsequently given incorrect information only to then insist on bicycle riders needing to be given a copy..🤪



Carrot & Stick


Now let’s stop kidding ourselves;

We’ve been here already with drink driving, speeding etc.

We already know what works. Enforced legislation (both hard and soft) is how you continue the process of driver education.

Bottom line is that you don’t need to be a road safety expert to realise that those with little or no chance of being caught will continue to reoffend.

Sometimes there’s the carrot, other times, there’s the stick.

This is the stick…


Western Australia put their Minimum Passing Distance Law in place on Dec 3rd and this is the first ticket issued by the police there.


AU$400 fine and 4 penalty points for passing too close to a person on a bicycle in W.A.





Make no mistake, and Ireland’s increasing cyclist road toll doesn’t lie…

The spread of uninformed and illegitimate views, particularly by opinion leaders such as the media Gardaí and even politicians, is fueling misconceptions of cyclists and helping normalise dangerous driving directed towards people on bicycles.

Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 is Ireland’s largest Facebook advocacy page and is often awash with comments such as “I won’t respect cyclists on the road until they pay road tax, have insurance and their bicycles NCT’d” and the usual ranting about Lycra, law-breaking and perceptions of over-entitlement etc.


These particular fallacies need to be wrung out and put to bed by authorities such as the RSA, TII, Garda Traffic etc.

While these comments are out there fanning flames, these bodies seem ineffective in the face of such misinformation and misunderstanding and the resulting fall-out will spread…

…of that you can have no doubt.


Traffic cops in the U.K. are helping to correct some of this misinformation but we see nothing remotely like this from our Gardaí. 👇



Surrey Traffic Police twitter account correcting misinformation



We can easily predict where this non effectiveness will lead us to.


This is one such comment left unmoderated on our national broadcaster RTE’s Facebook page.


Facebook comment on an RTE post following the recent die-in protest.



Motorists will just get increasingly annoyed about interactions with bicycle riders that they neither understand or care about.

At best we can expect this frustration to lead to cyclist hate pages popping up on social media where this can be vented.

At worst we will see a cyclist fatality as a result as has happened in this case recently in Australia.

Motorist Ben Smith was sentenced for the death of a bicycle rider.

In handing down his sentence Judge Buscombe found Smith had “a strong dislike verging on hate towards cyclists” as evidenced by a Facebook post in which he warned cyclists they would keep “coping 2inch flybys” and abuse if they continued to use the road.

(Full story here)


We see a lot of these types of comments on cyclist related social media pages (ours are moderated – others are not) and it’s can only be a matter of time until we have our own Ben Smith.










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