Fixed charge notices for cycling offences - Our response

On 25th June, we sent the following email to officials of the Road Safety section at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS). We also copied the Smarter Travel section of DTTAS and Minister Paschal Donohoe -

Thanks for the opportunity to put our considered views on the proposed introduction of Fixed Charge Notices (FCNs) for various cycling offences. The following is our overall viewpoint on this issue, and please forgive any reiteration of previous points raised with you. We would welcome any response to the points raised below.

  1. We are not in favour of law breaking and dangerous cycling

  2. We understand the need for a deterrent to bad cycling behaviour that puts other road users at risk, and deterrents already exist in law, and merely requires application/enforcement of that law.​

  3. ​We are not convinced that the ‘risk’ element associated with these proposed FCN offences has been properly assessed​ in the context of overall national Road Safety policy. Do cyclists kill other road users? What level of injury/offence is caused by cyclists in comparison with motor vehicles? What quantum improvement in road safety will be achieved through the introduction of these FCNs? We have yet to see real figures, or be convinced by anything other than anecdotal comments.

  4. ​We are not sure that fixed charges are the right deterrent, and the offences they relate to need to have a clear reasoning as to what benefit they will bring about​ For instance cycling on footpaths can be harmless​, and is often done for safety reasons, due, for instance, to poor cycling infrastructure or heavy traffic,​with no danger to other users, but it ​can undoubtedly ​also be aggressive. Cycling along tram routes can often be the safest choice by cyclists, as they tend to be on quietly trafficked streets with little likelihood of interference by motorised traffic. Major discretion is required by Garda on these issues.​

  5. ​We are disappointed that there has been no formal public consultation on this issue, which would allow a variety of views to be brought forward and the contrasting issues to be debated, including the measurable impact of these proposals on overall national road safety statistics. We urge the implementation of a formal consultation process before any final decision on this matter.

  6. We urge the Minister to at least consider the deferral of a decision on these proposed FCNs, until a proper public consultation process has been implemented. We understand that the present proposed ‘hurried’ decision is related to the dictat of the Garda ‘Pulse’ system, which can only be updated at irregular intervals!? We feel the present proposed decision is premature.

  7. ​The overall thrust of Road Traffic Policy ​should be the safety of all road users. To this end the continued investment in, and development of, high quality infrastructure for both cyclists and pedestrians needs to be accelerated in line with national aspirations, as enunciated in the National Cycle Policy Framework, and in various Local Authority development plans. Present investment in cycling related infrastructure is totally disproportionate to the investment in general roads infrastructure.

  8. The media stories on the proposals for FCNs, were leaked on the Monday of National Bikeweek, which is coordinated by the Smarter Travel Unit of your Department. Bikeweek is meant to be a celebration of all things Bike, and yet another arm of your Department felt fit to leak this issue to the press, which in turn raised a negative ‘storm’ about cycling, right during the week when the Department are supposed to be encouraging cycling! This poor communication between the different arms of the department raises issues of internal communication on messages issued to the public on Departmental policy.

  9. We have also, separately, been in initial discussions with the Roads Division of your Department on the new Speed Limit Guidelines, on the possible introduction of contra-flow cycling, and turning left on red lights etc, practices which are already enshrined in traffic legislation throughout Europe. Ireland is ‘behind the curve’ on these issues, and the proposed introduction of FCNs at this stage for these ‘offences’, will raise serious questions about the Department’s commitment to increasing sustainable transport use.

  10. Dublin Cycling Campaign are in discussion with Dublin City Manager Owen Keegan on the possible roll-out of a ‘RESPECT’ Campaign, to encourage all road users to be aware of, and respect other road users. We feel that at this point in time a positive initiative such as this to encourage better behaviour by all road users, will serve more purpose than an ill thought out FCN approach to penalising cyclists.

  11. Is there is ​any evidence that the offences referred to​ are widespread, or are​ they mainly confined to Dublin City Centre​ ​? We need more than anecdotal evidence, and some assessment of their possible influence on overall Road Safety, ​​before introducing FCNs,

​ In summary we feel that the introduction of FCNs at this point in time is premature and reactionary, and may in the long term negatively affect the government’s sustainable transport initiatives. We urge the Minister to actively promote positive behaviour by all road users, to seek the introduction of European standard initiatives such as contra flow cycling, and to immediately increase direct investment in the improvement of cycle and pedestrian facilities.

If the Minister chooses to disregard the above advice and go ahead with FCNs, we urge that The application of FCNs to minors should be clearly signalled as being ​excluded from fines​, as many parents ​will be likely to discourage their children from cycling as a result. If fixed charges are to be introduced they need to be proportionate to those for cars/vans etc. Bicycles are not 2 ton machines that can cause major damage! Cyclists do not kill or maim! The particular charges of footpath cycling and cycling on a tram lane should be redacted.

​If you yourself or the Minister wishes to discuss any of these issues further we would be happy to meet ​up and outline our proposals.

Yours

Colm Ryder Secretary Dublin Cycling Campaign/Cyclist.ie

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

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