As summer is fast approaching, the evenings are getting longer and the mornings are getting brighter.
With this extra light, people choose to spend their time whichever way they like. Some go for afternoon walks, some jog, and others go for drives. But for a particular set of people, they will don their bikes from the shed and take to the roads.
The roads are a dangerous place at the best of times. Cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users, with their only safety precautions being a lightweight plastic helmet and high visibility gear.
According to The Road Safety Authority (RSA), there was nine cyclists died on the road last year. This figure is down from 2014 where the death toll was 12. The RSA said, “Even though cyclists’ deaths were reduced from the previous year, it is still a worrying figure.”
The RSA is concerned for cyclist’s safety as the summer months’ approach. “We would be concerned that cyclists will take unnecessary risks”, the RSA said.
One of the reasons they say they are worried is because of research that shows only half of the cyclist’s in Ireland wear helmets when they are out cycling.
The RSA are currently campaigning for new legislation that will see the speed limits in built up areas set at 30km/hr.
“Research has shown that if you are involved in a collision with a vehicle travelling at 30km/hr, you have a 9 in 10 chance of surviving” the RSA said.
The “Stayin’ Alive 1.5” was set up in County Wexford and is run by cyclist, Phil Skeleton, who is campaigning strongly for a minimum overtaking distance of 1.5 meters between and cyclists and the vehicle.
“This distance definitely makes the difference to the safety of the bicycle rider and creates awareness amongst motorists on what a safe lateral space is when overtaking in line with what many jurisdictions have done worldwide”, Mr Skelton said.
The “Stayin’ Alive 1.5” campaign is trying to make the 1.5-meter minimum overtaking distance a state law. It is already referenced in the rules of the road, which was a massive win for Mr Skelton and his campaign.
The 1.5-meter Minimum Passing Distance Laws are in place in 26 US states, 2 Canadian Provinces, France, Spain, Portugal and Belgium. Mr Skelton hopes to add Ireland to the list as soon as possible.
Mr Skelton said that the law does work, “In [Austrian State] Queensland, for example, a recent survey done by the Amy Gillette Foundation after just 6 months of a trial there, they found that 75pc are aware of the legislation, 67pc support the legislation and most importantly 61pc of cyclists have experienced greater distance from overtaking motorists” Mr Skelton said.
One of the key issues cyclists face this summer is the two-abreast debate. This debate has driven a wedge between cyclists and motorists. This misunderstanding is further accentuated by ‘name calling’ and ‘stereotyping’ said Mr Skelton.
Stereotypes like “all cyclists run red lights” and “all motorists text while driving” pushes the two groups further away from a harmonised relationship.
Mr Skelton said, “understanding that road users are people…people like you and me and none of us are perfect and do the right thing all the time but we all need to look out for each other.”
However, cycling two-a-breast is well in accordance with the rules of the road. Under the statuary instruments no. 187 Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997, states “A pedal cyclist shall not drive a pedal cycle on a roadway in such a manner as to result in more than two pedal cyclists driving abreast, save when overtaking other pedal cyclists, and then only if to do so will not endanger, inconvenience or obstruct other traffic or pedestrians.”
The RSA says that it is “often ok” to ride two-a-breast except when you are on a narrow road, holding up a lot of traffic or overtaking a parked car.
While it is not only legal to ride two-a-breast it is also the most enjoyable part of the sport for a lot of people. Most people out cycling are out for the day and it is a lot more enjoyable to cycle with someone other than alone.
Mr Skelton said, “most car drivers will talk to their passengers and this is not regarded as unsafe driving.” The two-abreast cycling also has many benefits that motorists might not necessarily understand.
Riding two-abreast makes it safer for the motorist, especially if there is four or six in a group. Because the group is more compact it allows the motorist to overtake the group quickly and safely.
The other reason the two-abreast rule is safer for cyclists is that it makes the cyclists more visible to motorists approaching quickly from behind. By making the group bigger the motorist will have to slow down and take proper precautions when over taking.
If there were three or four cyclists in single file it would mean that some motorists might take more chances when over taking, driving too closely and quickly to get passed them in time.
Cycling is becoming a huge sport now. People are calling it the new golf and that means that there will be more cyclists out on the roads. With people working hard for cyclists’ rights and awareness, it still comes down to people just needing to realise they do not own the road.