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Tuesday 16 July 2019

Urgent action needed to make pedal power safer - campaigner

Stock photo
Stock photo

Allison Bray and Ian Begley

Ireland still has a long road ahead when it comes to safety for cyclists, according to a road safety campaigner.

As more than a thousand cyclists took to the streets of the capital yesterday as part of the Velo-city Dublin Bike Parade, Neil Fox, a spokesman on cycling for the Irish Road Victims' Association, said Ireland still has a long way to go to make cycling more safe here.

Mr Fox (39) lost his younger sister Donna (30) when she was hit by a truck while cycling in Dublin city centre on September 6, 2016.

Since then little has changed despite the push for more people to embrace cycling as a cheap, healthy and green means of transportation, he said.

"We just can't take small steps anymore," he said.

"I was in Strasbourg a few weeks ago for a victims' support conference and I noticed how different it is for cyclists and pedestrians there. Their infrastructure is a lot more efficient and geared towards active transport," he said.

"This is exactly what we need in Ireland, but I don't think our Government is committed to implementing radical enough steps.

"The Greenways project that [Transport Minister] Shane Ross announced this week is very much welcomed, but only new legislation and Garda enforcement will save lives," he said.

Accident

"Cycling isn't safe in Dublin. My sister died three years ago in September in a tragic cycling accident, but even still I don't want to discourage anyone from cycling."

Nine cyclists died on the country's roads in 2018, the average number for fatalities each year over the past decade.

Brian Farrell, spokesman for the Road Safety Authority of Ireland, said that while more cyclists are killed in rural areas than cities due to the higher speed limits outside cities, driver speed and distraction pose a lethal threat to all road users, but especially cyclists.

"Drivers being distracted by a mobile phone is a big problem but the stakes are so much higher for a cyclist," he said.

Speed is equally deadly. If a driver hits a cyclist at 60kmh the cyclist has no chance of survival, he said.

And that fear is well-founded, according to Mr Fox, who said Ireland needs to build cyclist-only lanes and other cycle-friendly infrastructure.

"Very few children and teenagers cycle because they fear for their safety.

"You're sharing the roads with double-decker buses and international visitors find it bizarre at the lack of space cyclists are given," he said.

"Overall, we need a radical change in transport policy. I'd be calling for 10pc of the land transport budget to go towards cycling," he added.

Irish Independent

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