Cyclists vs Motorists

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.

1.5 staying alive

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.

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Our First Cycling Adventure

At 17 years old none of us had been away from our family’s for a trip like this.

When Jack saw The Cycle Against Suicide advertised he literally ran straight up to me and Nicky telling us that he had a great “plan” for our first adventure.

Jack and Nicky are two friends, that have been since primary school. I was the extra for that six days. Afterwards though, it was like we had been friends for years.

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From right; Jack, me, Joe(One of the many people we met) and Nicky

The three of us had been cycling for around two years at this stage. We all started off on heavy aluminium road bikes that weighed around 14 kilograms. At 15 we were out cycling in traffic, down tractor infested back roads and sprinting for every stop sign we saw.

We caused our parents quite a bit of concern as we would disappear for up to five hours nearly every Sunday exploring the beautiful countryside of Wexford.

Two years later we were riding 7-kilogram carbon fibre racers. Still to this day that bike cost more than my first car but it is a true passion.

We set off on a warm springs morning. The students in the school including some teachers came along for the first day. They had organised to go out for one stage of the cycle.  Our 600 kilometre epic from County Carlow all the way along the coast to Ennis in County Clare had begun.

We rode at a slow pace of 20 km/h for the whole six days. This meant that we all stuck together. The first day was only 84 kilometres. The feeling among the bunch was something I had never before experienced. There was a feeling of openness and sincerity, the type where you could talk to the person beside you about anything.

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We would stop every so often to let everyone catch up.

Throughout the trip we pulled into secondary schools for lunch. Students would line the drive way in and the hall ways would be full of students looking at over 1000 cyclists dressed in lycra, young and old.

This is where the cycle really made a difference. In the school, talking to the students about suicide awareness, the speakers always did an amazing job and would often leave a lump in your throat. The schools and students would always have an amazing spread of food and no one would leave hungry.

Been the youngest cyclist to do this meant we got some attention from the other students that were our age. Jack was never shy when telling them all about our “adventure of a lifetime” and Nicky playing the ever faithful wingman.

Jim Breen, the man behind the cycle would host talks in all of these schools about mental health and the issues surrounding suicide. What always amazed me was that each talk was different from the last one. They were not rehearsed. You could tell it all came from the heart and everyone would have an overwhelming sense of love and joy leaving.

Jim always started his speeches with the song ‘Intro’ by the XX and then a massive group hug followed by a one song long dance. Not everyone participated, I certainly didn’t but Jack and Nicky really were in their element.

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A talk we had at one of the schools along the way

That was the thing though, whether you were up dancing and signing it didn’t matter as long as you were there wearing orange standing “Shoulder to shoulder” to break the cycle of suicide in Ireland.

The slogan of the cycle is “It’s ok not to feel ok and it’s absolutely ok to ask for help.”

Jim also liked to end some of his speeches with, “You’re lovely, you’re lovable and you’re loved.”

The second day of the our cycle has always stuck with me. It was the longest day of the trip, around 130 kilometres from Waterford to Cork. We got up from our beds sore and cramped after the first 84 kilometres, got dressed, headed downstairs in the B&B, walked out side and threw our legs over the top bar of our bikes.

Ten minutes later we were soaked through and it remained that way for the next nine hours. Throughout this whole day I never once felt cold or thought that I wouldn’t make it. People were encouraging you and talking to you the whole way keeping your mind off of the Irish weather.

You sheltered the person behind you and you were sheltered by the person in front. Everyone had a purpose that day and the point was made at lunch time that problems shared really are halved.

 

By Nick Moloney

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Taking outside our school CBS wexford. These are all the students that participated in the cycle that year.