independent

Saturday 30 August 2014

Cyclist launches 'Staying Alive' safety campaign

Published 19/11/2013 | 05:38

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A WEXFORDMAN who took up cycling four years ago, has launched a national campaign to have a safe overtaking distance written into law for Irish motorists.

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Philip Skelton started 'Staying Alive at 1.5' following the recent deaths of two County Wexford cyclists in less than a year.

He explains that 1.5 metres is the internationally recognised safe distance for overtaking a cyclist and many European countries including Spain, Germany, France and Portugal have adopted it in law.

Philip, an employee of Wexford General Hospital, quickly began to realise the dangers of cycling when he took up the hobby with the intention of losing some weight and getting fit.

'I have personal experience of being grazed by a driver's wing mirror while being overtaken,' he said. 'This unnerved me massively and I realised the fine line between wobbling into to the nearby ditch and a potentially more severe outcome.'

The left side of the road where cyclists are expected to pedal is usually where pot holes and manholes are located and also where debris and glass accumulate, he said.

'Crosswinds can also cause cyclists to deviate from a predicted line and some steep hills can cause wobbles as cyclists try to stay balanced,' said Philip who has cycled all over Ireland and in France.

'In a nutshell bicycles are not cars, they are less predictable. They travel more slowly and swerve to avoid obstacles, 'he said.

Safe overtaking is covered on page 43 of the Rules of the Road but the only advice given is that you should allow extra space when overtaking a cyclist.

This is ambiguous and inadequate, according to Philip who is campaigning for the law to be clearly defined as 1.5 metres.

He doesn't anticipate overworked gardai chasing motorists with a measuring tape.

'But should a Garda observe a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre, there should be a clear law defining the offence,' he said.

Philip wrote to the Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar who sent a reply, expressing the view that the current provision is strong enough.

The Minister did say that he felt a public awarenss campaign would help. Philip disagrees and is forging ahead with his campaign for a specified overtaking distance.

To promote the 1.5 message, he designed Ireland's first cycle safety jersey which was funded with the proceeds of a €3 each way bet on Auroras Encore at 66/1 in theGrand National. The jerseys are being sold at cost price through the stayingaliveat1.5 Facebook page as the campaign is a not for profit initiative. Philip also obtained sponsorship from DoneDeal for hi-vis vests which were given away to people all over Ireland.

As he fights for the safety of cyclists, Philip is appealing to motorists to avoid potentially catastrophic consequences by taking extra care when overtaking.

New Ross Standard

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