Cyclists in the Republic of Ireland will soon have the protection of a new law which will bring in a minimum passing distance and make close passes illegal.
The move, which was confirmed by Shane Ross T.D., Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, on Wednesday, comes at the end of a lengthy campaign by cycling campaigners and road safety groups, in particular the "Stayin’ Alive at 1.5" group which concentrated on this one particular issue.
The new regulations will need to be approved by the Irish Attorney General before they can be implemented, and will see a minimum passing distance (MPD) of one metre on roads with a speed limit of 50kmh (31mph) or less and a MPD of 1.5 metres on roads with a speed limit of more than 50kmh.
The decision came on the same day that the Road Safety Authority issued a report saying that there was little conclusive evidence that legislating on close passes had any effect on cyclists' safety, instead recommending better education and information for drivers.
However Ross said that although he recognised the findings of the report, he thought that introducing a minimum passing distance would help to raise awareness of the issue among non-cyclists.
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"I have been extremely concerned about the rise in cyclists fatalities on our roads," Ross said. In 2017, there were 15 cyclists killed, which was a 50% increase on 2016. Clearly this is an intolerable situation which has to change.
"Every life lost on our roads is a tragedy and as Minister for Transport, I am committed to do everything within my power to prevent preventable road deaths."
The regulations will only be introduced once the Garda are equipped with the technology required to measure close passes, with the effectiveness of the new rules being assessed after 12 months.
Drivers who are caught passing too close to cyclists will face an €80 (£70) fine and three points on their licence.
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