Dangerous Overtaking of Cyclists by Driver
Dangerous overtaking by drivers of other road users is a statutory offence as set out in Section No. 10 of SI No. 182 of 1997. Under this regulation drivers are required to take care when overtaking so as to ensure that their overtaking does not endanger, or cause inconvenience to, any other person. This means that it is not just other drivers who are protected but cyclists and pedestrians too.
Cyclists are the most vulnerable of all in traffic. They have no protection provided by a steel body cage, seat belts or air-bags. They drive an unstable machine that wobbles and so doesn’t always track predictably as do 4-wheeled vehicles. They need space while on the road in the congested traffic found in urban areas. They should be overtaken with a lot of care - neither too close nor too fast.
Overtaking of cyclists by drivers is also dealt with in the Rules of the Road at p. 43 where the advice is: you should give extra space when overtaking a cyclist. However note that it is not mandatory (‘should’ rather than must!) and no minimum overtaking separation distance is even suggested. In some jurisdictions it is set out as 1.5 m. The offence is one of the fixed penalty offences and carries 2 penalty points and a €80 fine. [It is listed on p. 197 of the Rules of The Road dound on the RSA website.
On the face of it, this is a pretty powerful regulation but the Campaign has evidence from a written reply to a parliamentary question (PQ), set for us in 2008 by an opposition transport spokesperson, that the Garda are just not enforcing it in favour of cyclists or pedestrians. In other words it is a ‘dead’ regulation. It is up to cyclists and pedestrians to ensure that the Garda are pushed into prosecuting drivers who come too close to and or fast past them on the road.
What Would Constitute Dangerous Overtaking of a Cyclist?
The dangerous overtaking offence was designed to deal with situations where the driver’s vehicle does not actually impact with you. One example would be in simple overtaking situations on a straight road if a bus or taxi driver tries to overtake from within a 3.0 m wide bus, that would constitute dangerous overtaking because it is not possible for the bus to fit in the lane while you are also in it. A typical Dublin Bus is about 3.1 m measured across the wing mirrors - remember most riders can be hit by the left mirror if the bus comes too close to their head. The driver would be quite literally ‘shaving’ past a cyclist which, of course, totally intimidates them and there is the prospect of actual impact.
Another example is where cyclists are in a marked cycle lane coming up to a complex junction with say a sweep-left turn lane and a straight-ahead lane. They are intent on heading straight-ahead but the cycle lane is marked on the left side of the road. In this case drivers who intend to turn left may try to overtake when the cyclist is trying to go ahead. This is called a left-hook manouver and the vehicle may just miss them. Another example of this offence would be if they were on a road where higher vehicle speeds are permitted (say in excess of 60 kph) and a large goods vehicle (semi-trailer HGV) overtakes them at speed and the wind vortex following in the truck’s wake causes them to fight for control of their bike. Remember that the bike is a metastable machine and a cyclist can be ‘blown’ off it by atrificial winds such as this! Basically if a driver comes too close to for comfort it amounts to dangerous overtaking.
What Can We Do About It?
The first point is that we have to sensitise both the Gardai and the Road Safety Authority to the importance of safe overtaking of cyclists by drivers, particularly bus, coach and taxi drivers who share the bus lane system. We need to see the Rules of The Road amended to make this safety issue crystal clear to drivers. The second point is that we need to ensure that so-called professional drivers like bus, coach and taxi drivers receive proper training and instruction in how to overtake safely and with due consideration for a cyclist’s vulnerability. The driving instruction and test regime needs to be beefed up for all vehicle drivers in terms of safe interaction. Finally we should not be afraid to cite drivers to the Garda who we feel have endangered cyclists while out on the road. The section that follows this explains how to go about doing this.
Steps You Can Take to Cite a Driver for Dangerous Overtaking
If you have been subjected to what you perceive to have been a ‘dangerous overtaking’ incident (dangerous overtaking offence is where the driver has come too close to you but has not impacted with you) then there are some formal steps you can take to cite the driver to the Garda for the alleged offence. Unfortunately it has to be termed ‘alleged’ and you have no say in whether or not a fixed penalty points notice will be issued or a prosecution in the District Court under a summons will be initiated by the Garda authorities.
The decision to prosecute/issue penalty notice is taken solely by the Superintendent at the Garda station for that locality. If an individual Garda did not detect the offence then you are on an uphill slope right away. It will be your word against the driver and on balance the Superintendent will not progress your citing. He/she will reject it and you will not be told why. Sadly, cyclists are up against an ingrained ‘institutional blindness’ within the echelons of An Garda management that does not seem to understand cyclists’ road safety needs. But then too many cyclists have, by their road behaviour, helped to bring this impasse about. It’s time for change on both fronts.
Let’s be clear about how ‘dangerous overtaking’ is defined. It is a statutory road traffic law offence set out in Statutory Instrument No. 182 of 1997 “ROAD TRAFFIC (TRAFFIC AND PARKING) REGULATIONS, 1997” Overtaking 10. (1) A driver shall not overtake, or attempt to overtake, if to do so would endanger, or cause inconvenience to, any other person. (2) A driver shall not overtake, or attempt to overtake, unless the roadway ahead of the driver— ( a ) is free from approaching traffic, pedestrians and any obstruction, and ( b ) is sufficiently long and wide to permit the overtaking to be completed without danger or inconvenience to other traffic or pedestrians. (3) A driver shall not overtake, or attempt to overtake, on a stretch of roadway on which traffic sign number RUS 014 [no overtaking] has been provided. [You can access all road traffic legislation (primary acts and regulations (SIs) at http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/statutory.html.] As a rider of a bike you are the driver of a vehicle in Irish Law and you are also ‘traffic’. You must insist on this! It is not widely understood (or accepted?) by authorities. Your chances of the citing being taken seriously against a public bus or coach company driver are likely to be higher if only for the reason that the driver is a so-called professional who has received training but more importantly the cab has a forward-facing CCTV camera installed so the footage can be saved and reviewed to help corroborate your citing. However you need to act rapidly because Dublin Bus strips the footage after four days.
Step 1 Note the Vehicle Registration Number (store it on your mobile phone; on a piece of paper; on your newspaper; write on your hand if needs be, etc.). Keep reciting it to yourself until you commit it to permanency (concentrate on numerals sequence). Without this you are doomed! If you goof then cycle after the vehicle and hope to catch up with it at next junction!
Step 2 Note the vehicle make, type and colour. If it’s a bus, just note the Service Number (No. 4, 46A, etc)
Step 3 Location for incident; inbound/outbound; bus lane/general vehicle lane; on a bend; at a pinch-point; road markings – solid lines/dashed lines, etc.? Were you in a multi-lane carriageway? [Or just single in/out)?] Were you in a marked cycle lane? Were you in a bus lane? What is lane width? [Note: many bus lanes in Dublin City are only a nominal 3.0 m wide. A bus has a width of approx. 3.1 m across wing mirrors. A bus or coach and you can’t fit safely in such a configuration!] Go back later and take a photograph of scene from your direction of travel.
Step 4 Note time
Step 5 If driver is accessible (catch up if needs be), warn him/her that you are citing them for dangerous driving offence at nearest Garda station.
Step 6 If the vehicle belongs to Dublin Bus or Bus Eireann then make a call before the close of the day to HQ or local garage to seek the retention of the in-cab CCTV footage for Garda inspection. This is crucial! Dublin Bus: 59, Upper O’Connell Street, Dublin 1. Tel. No. 01-872 0000. The entry in commercial section of Eircom Directory gives numbers for each garage. Pick the one appropriate for your service. Bus Eireann: HQ, Broadstone, Dublin 7. Tel. No. 703 3395. Aircoach: Arrivals Level, Dublin Airport, Collinstown, Co. Dublin. Tel. No. 01-844 7118.
Step 7 Write a letter to the bus/coach company Complaints Manager (CE and/or safety officer in case of a company) using the specimen letter below. [If it’s a private vehicle then skip this last step.] Delete inappropriate sections/words. Insert any specific details for your incident. Attach an image of carriageway if you have one. If you use a helmet-cam then save that clip to a USB-key or CD-ROM disc. Don’t forget your address and telephone contacts.
Specimen Letter Citing dangerous Overtaking Offence
This is a specimen letter that you can send to the bus company (copy to police) for the locality where the incident happened in order to cite a driver for the alleged ‘dangerous overtaking’ offence. You modify it to suit your circumstances. Re: Dangerous overtaking by (name of company) service No. xx bus driver on xx/xx/14 Dear xxx This is the first/second/xx time in six months that I am writing formally to you to record my extreme concern about what was ‘dangerous overtaking’ of me on my bike by one of your drivers this morning inbound on Anglesea Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 [put in the location address that is appropriate] while I was cycling inbound at approximately 09:14 hrs [put in the appropriate time!]. The service was the #84 double-decker with registration No. 00 D 300093. [put in the servic edetails!] I warned you driver that I would be citing him for the dangerous overtaking offence. [Your in-cab CCTV will reveal this conversation when I caught up with him at the bus stop opposite Ballsbridge Library.] Your driver began to line up to overtake me just after the Anglesea Road-Simmonscourt Road junction. The road is a double-S-bend here and there are cars parked on the inbound side. No vehicle should be overtaking me in this sector. It was dangerous overtaking and this is a statutory offence as set out in SI No. 182 of 1997 (Section No. 10). It carries a fine of €80 and 2 penalty points. I was forced out-of-line in the carriageway to avoid impact with the bus. Your in-cab CCTV will show this. I am contacting Chris Raftery in your Donnybrook Garage to run the in-cab CCTV footage of this incident. I am making a formal citing reference to Donnybrook Garda. I want you to undertake to preserve the CCTV footage until the Garda can review it. Cyclists are driving a vehicle (a bike is a vehicle, in law, and is recognized as traffic) and your drivers have got to understand that they must not endanger cyclists while overtaking them. Cyclists have no protection in the event of impact in a RTC. This was unacceptable and unsafe driving displayed by a trained driver who should know better. In my view, your company’s driver training and driver standards monitoring systems need urgent review. Yours sincerely, Dr. Mike McKillen (Commuting cyclist; safety consultant & Chairman, Dublin Cycling Campaign) c.c Chris Raftery (Donnybrook garage) Garda Superintendent, Donnybrook Station
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