CYCLISTS will be hit with on-the-spot fines if caught riding on footpaths or breaking red lights.
he Government is to introduce new regulations allowing gardai to impose fines of €50 against cyclists who break road safety laws, it has been learned.
The measure is contained in the Government’s road safety strategy and comes after independent TD Finian McGrath caused a furore in May after blasting cyclists for being arrogant and lacking respect for other road users, including motorists.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar now plans to introduce new regulations before the end of the year, which would allow gardai to impose fines for three offences - breaking a red light, cycling on a footpath and overtaking in a dangerous situation.
The fines will be a “minimum” of €50 and must be paid within 56 days. If unpaid, the cyclist will be ordered to appear in court where the fines can be increased.
The move will affect some 40,000 people who cycle on a regular basis, 6,000 of which are in Dublin.
A spokesman for the Department of Transport said the fines were being introduced to discourage dangerous practices on the roads, adding the offenders were currently being dealt with through the courts system.
The move to introduce on-the-spot fines followed consultation with gardai and the Road Safety Authority (RSA), and the measure was likely to be introduced late this year or in early 2014.
“An alternative approach is required when prosecuting offenders in the interests of road safety,” he said.
“Gardaí have contacted the Department to report an increased success rate in prosecuting cyclists in court. The Department will extend the fixed-charge system to cycling offences. This is being brought in under the new Road Safety Strategy and can be done under secondary legislation, through ministerial regulations.”
Gardaí already have a range of powers to enforce safe cycling practices under existing legislation, including the power – in extreme cases - to impound bicycles.
A spokesman for Cycling.ie, a national lobbying group, said while on-the-spot fines would act as a deterrent to dangerous cyclists, more driver training was needed.
“What we know from international road safety research is the more cyclists on the streets the fewer collisions and fatalities there are,” Dr Mike McKillen said. “Drivers need to be taught how to interact with cyclists.
“We can see that some form of meting out punishment to errant cyclists by gardai is needed, but motorists go through red lights as well, while cyclists don’t kill people.”
He added that the Department of Transport had a “confusing” policy where footway were separated into cycing lanes and walkways. All cyclists should be on the road, he said, adding that the government was in danger of missing a target to have 10pc of all commuter trips made by bicycle by 2020 unless more people were encouraged to use their bikes.
The number of cyclists dying on the roads has sharply fallen in recent years - down from an average of 25 a year between 1993 and 1997, to 8.4 per annum between 2008 and 2012. The last census shows the number cycling rose by almost 10pc between 2006 and 2011 to 39,803, some 20,000 fewer than 1986 when the number of cyclists was at its peak.
The deadline for the introduction of the fines is the second quarter of 2014, and will coincide with a routine update of the Garda PULSE system.
It is understood that officials are also considering adding other offences including a fine for cycling the wrong way on one-way streets, not having lights or cycling while under the influence of alcohol.