Gardaí Prepare for Crackdown on Rogue Cyclists

SPORTSCO AQUA GROUP

“But will it stop the pests?” So asked an angry Ivan Yates on NewsTalk. He spoke of Ireland’s new law – enacted August 1st – allowing Gardaí to issue fines to cyclists running afoul of traffic laws.

Armed with this new, robust enforcement power, Gardaí will be issuing on-the-spot fines of €40 for such grievous offences as running red lights, cycling in pedestrianised areas, and operating a pedalled vehicle “…without reasonable consideration.”

While it is true that many cyclists blatantly disobey simple safety ordinances – neglecting to use lights during night-time hours and howling through busy intersections without so much as a sideways glance to check for cross traffic – most urban Irish cyclists, myself included, face a very hostile and unforgiving world on the streets.

This new enforcement law might be targeting the wrong dancers in this dangerous ballet, or as Eamon Ryan called Dublin’s streets when seen from a cyclist’s point of view, “…a Ben-Hur racing track.”

When I first heard of this new clampdown, I checked my own cycling habits to see if there were any legal cracks. In one journey from Belfield to the city centre and back, I found myself committing several infractions almost without thinking – and I consider myself a defensive and careful cyclist!

Prohibiting the running of red lights seems like a no-brainer; they are in place to ensure no road user gets gunned down by crossing traffic. I obey red lights as often their design allows, but I repeatedly run into one major flaw: bicycles can’t trigger car-sensors. A patient cyclist waiting for their protected right turn might be waiting a long while if no car happens to be going their way.

On my way home, I have to make such a turn into a small, dead-end residential street. If I’m not travelling at rush hour – and heaven help me if I am – I could stand at the intersection through a dozen light cycles before someone living in the tiny neighbourhood has to come home for a lunchtime nap. If, from today, I make my usual light-running right turn when the road is clear, will I find myself staring down the barrel of an angry guard’s pen?

Will I also be dragged, bound in my own bike chains, before the High Court for hopping the kerb to ride on the pedestrian footpath when the cycle lane is clogged with illegally-parked cars?

I have watched countless Garda cruisers glide by these icebergs in the cycle lane North Atlantic. If a biker swerves to avoid such a hazard, who gets the citation? Delivery vehicles and post trucks are allowed to stop for a short time only, of course, but that makes them no less obstructive and dangerous for cyclists.

When vehicles, delivery or otherwise, block the cycle track, we must choose the spectre of crushing death in the bus and taxi lane – not to mention the elevated risk of a Chaplinesque crash into a suddenly-opened car door – or face the oncoming dog-walkers and pram-pushers on the footpath.

When I zip and dodge my way through this cycle-lane slalom, will an overzealous guard smile at the neighbourhood UPS driver as she chastises me for such lack of “reasonable consideration?”

But I am a man of the law, and I plan to stay on the right side of Justice as much as the streets of Dublin will allow. As I dismount to push the pedestrian cross button for my signal, and carefully walk my bike on the footpath when delivery trucks and lazy residents block the cycleway, I can only wonder if I will be the only sucker in the country silly enough to be scared of this questionable crackdown on the most vulnerable and least harmful road users.

By Cory Hanson

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  1. […] [RELATED: Read this editorial in local Dublin community newspaper NewsFour] […]