First and foremost, the purpose of this campaign is not to paint motorists in a bad light. Unfortunately people break laws and disrespect rules. These people also ride bicycles and drive motor vehicles.
What is Stayin’ Alive at 1.5?
Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 is a campaign to pursue the adoption of a law that requires motorists to give cyclists 1.5 metres clearance when passing from the rear.
It is a 2 pronged campaign concentrating on (a) a safety campaign through the Facebook page and sale of a dedicated safety jersey and (b) lobbying of politicians in an effort to have the current ambiguous overtaking law amended.
Current laws and rules of the road in relation to overtaking?
The current reference to this issue is on page 50 of the Irish Rules of the Road,
The advice is that you should give extra space when overtaking a cyclist.
The aim of Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 is to have this distance clearly defined as 1.5 metres and to have the word ‘should’ replaced by the word ‘must’.
The current laws on dangerous overtaking state:
A driver shall not overtake, or attempt to overtake, if to do so would endanger, or cause inconvenience to, any other person.
A driver shall not overtake, or attempt to overtake, unless the roadway ahead of the driver (a) is free from approaching traffic, pedestrians or any obstruction, and (b) is sufficiently long and wide to permit the overtaking to be completed without danger or inconvenience to other traffic or pedestrians.
An infringement of this law involves a fine of 80 euro and 3 penalty points. However, it does not seem to be enforced in its current guise. In 2011 there were only 411 such offences detected and in 2012 there were 406 offences detected. Furthermore, this category is not sub-divided further so as to reflect ‘Dangerous Overtaking of Cyclists’
This Law therefore needs to be ‘beefed-up’ and enhanced by a change to the current overtaking statutory offence which is set out in Section No.10 of SI No.182 of 1997 in order to make it more effective in line with other jurisdictions.
Why is this important?
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. This should not be the case if we are to follow government policy in increasing the amount of journeys carried out by bicycle.
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 (below)
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.
Actions from other juristictions:
26 *US states have dealt with this by passing legislation specifying a safe overtaking space. This particular law states that drivers must maintain a specified safe distance while overtaking a cyclist. This specified distance varies from country to country but the internationally recognised safe distance is 1.5 metres. Countries across Europe including Belgium, France and most recently, Portugal have adopted this specified safe overtaking space. The Canadian Provinces of Nova Scotia and Ontario have Minimum Passing Distance Laws (MPDL) in place. Queensland, Australia too has introduced a safe overtaking law on a trial basis for 2 years since April 2014 and while full data has yet to be published there, one of the early findings include a drop in 70% in cyclist fatalities The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has started a trial of their own while South Australia has become the first Australian jurisdiction to make MPDL a permanent fixture. New South Wales will commence their own trial in March 2016. Tasmania has rolled out 1.5 metre signage along with an awareness campaign and has modified its rules of the road there.
Distance makes the difference
Stay wider of the rider http://youtu.be/QPw_mliA91Y
*The 26 states with 3-foot (or more) laws are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania (4 feet), South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
(A). Safety and awareness: In line with other safety campaigns overseas, we also now have a dedicated stayin’ alive at 1.5 jersey, gilet and bib-shorts, all bearing this clear message with this campaign in mind. To date over 500 of these garments have made their way across the length and breadth of Ireland. The response to them has been very positive. Overseas experience too has shown this as being an effective way of getting motorists to allow the cyclist more room on the roads.
The stayin’ alive at 1.5 policy is to make these garments affordable to all who wish to wear them. In doing so, we did not want to compromise on quality. After all, there is no point in going to all this effort only for the garment to be left in a drawer somewhere. The clothing supplier to the Irish cycling team, Spin 11, is the supplier of the stayin’ alive kit. Our philosophy is to sell these as cheaply as possible as we put the lives of cyclists ahead of profits. We feel that those who choose to wear these highly visible garments, containing a vital safety message, should be able to do so without having to dig too deep into their pockets.
The kit bears the ‘bike pure’ logo along with that of our safety partners, Cycliq and see.sense
The jersey has a fluorescent yellow along with reflective banding, making them highly visible along with the ‘1.5 metres please share the road’ message. This combination should help you to be safe, seen and understood.
The jersey is in Spin11s performance speed range which is one of their top quality garments.
We also now have some outward facing rear window stickers available too to help spread the 1.5 metre message. Funding is an issue so all goods are done on a pre-order basis.
The Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 Facebook page currently has over 6,000 engaged followers and is growing rapidly. Safety messages are regularly shared through this medium and shared with the wider community.
(B). I myself and others have received replies from the Transport minister to the sample letter attached. Minister Varadkar feels that current laws are strong enough and is proposing more awareness in relation to this matter. While this in my view is helpful, it will not go far enough to deal with the problem.
A similar stance has been taken by the current Transport Minister, Paschal Donohoe who we met in April 2015. The highly respected American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety collated the results of 30 years of scientific studies of the effectiveness of road safety advertising, and concluded:
“Research indicates that education has no effect, or only a very limited effect, on habits like staying within speed limits, heeding stop signs, and using safety belts.” http://www.iihs.org/externaldata/srdata/docs/sr3605.pdf
We all remember those shocking ads pertaining to drink-driving warning motorists of the risks and consequences of that behaviour a while back. They had some benefit in changing drivers attitude towards drink-driving, but it was not until random breath testing was phased in along with powers given to the Gardai to issue penalty points, fine, charge and ultimately imprison offenders who drove under the influence, that really made the change resulting in fewer road casualties. Minister Varadkar also feels that this rule would be difficult to enforce. Again, you can see his point of view but it is not the view of the stayin’ alive at 1.5 campaign to have our overworked Gardaí chase motorists around with a measuring tape but should a Garda notice such a defined dangerous overtaking manoeuvre, then there would be a clear law defining the offence. This could be enforced in the same way as our current tailgating laws are. In this instance, the 2 second rule (remember the ad ‘only a fool breaks the 2 second rule’) applies. This too is difficult to enforce but becomes apparent in the event of an accident or when witnessed by a member of the Gardai.
(C) The online petition now has over 5,000 signatories including such cycling luminaries as Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche, Nicolas Roche and the current Cycling Ireland President, Ciaran McKenna. Cycling Ireland is the governing body for cycling in Ireland and represents 28,000 members and we look forward to working with them into the future
(D) Recent letters of communication with the Road Safety Authority can be seen in a sub-heading of this page.
(E). As a follow on to lobbying some local politicians about the Safe overtaking law, this issue was proposed and passed unanimously at a Wexford Borough Council meeting in late January and has now gone forward to the Minister for Transport and the Road Safety Authority for consideration.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
1. In order to enact this law, we need to direct our lobby towards the houses of the Oireachtas as, only they have this power: there is a suggested letter (or indeed your own variant) linked on this page to the minister for transport that I would encourage you to forward by letter or email.
Your local councillors can help with this. There are a multitude of issues pertaining to safer cycling but, I think if the focus is kept narrow on this safe overtaking law, that it has a better chance of succeeding. Your Local Councellor has the power to put this motion on their agenda and to subsequently send it forward to the Dept. Transport and the Road Safety Authority for consideration.
2. Highlight safety concerns you may have by communicating with the Road Safety Authority.
3. Report bicycle accidents and near misses to the Gardai. Having a rant about it on twitter or Facebook will get it off your chest but those who have the power to affect future safety initiatives will never see it.
4. Buy a video camera and record your journey. There is no better way of verifying an incident. Have a look at this one. http://fly6.com Its a new product from Australia and reviews have been very positive. It’s also a tail-light for increased visibility.
5. Write to Cycling Ireland highlighting your concerns. They are after all Ireland’s official cycling body and maybe need to take a more active stance in day to day cycling issues pertaining to your safety
6. Sign the online petition.
7. Wear one of the Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 kit to help keep you safe and spread the message. Or maybe display one of our rear window stickers.
8. Like the Facebook page where most of the day to day activities are posted.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and hopefully to become more active in the pursuance of cycling safety matters. This particular campaign is of great importance to cyclists. Other jurisdictions that have passed the safe overtaking law have done so after an increase in cyclist deaths. I hope that our law-makers won’t wait for such an occurrence in Ireland before acting…