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Cycling two abreast in Ireland is legal, a protected practice, and it is safer.

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The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Contents Page
The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Semper Quarens - Always Looking

Cycling Two Abreast

Anyone who cycles a fair bit knows the routine.

Cycling in Ireland

Image by Flickr User Thundershead and used under a Creative Commons licence

…the crowds at Dutch Corner on the Alpe, the gentle swoosh of a light breeze… the obnoxious bollocks driving too close…

You are out on the bike. It’s great. You are training, touring, or generally dawdling, usually not digging too deep. You are cycling alongside a friend, deep in conversation about the most effective way to lose that last .0025kg and yet keep your fearsome and explosive power. You are surrounded by the freshness of the countryside, the smell of wild garlic, the splashing of a stream as you pass over an ancient arched bridge, the haze kicked up by the thunderous hooves of a horse that runs along a dusty track in its field beside you.

You notice more sounds – the sheep baaing like the crowds at Dutch Corner on the Alpe, the gentle swoosh of a light breeze… the obnoxious bollocks driving too close as he (and it is invariably a he) passes you either blaring the horn, or winding down the window so he might exchange pleasantries,

“Single file you stupid {name of body part} in your {crass homosexual synonym} lycra. Obey the law or get off the road you {human waste or emission}”

You momentarily feel truly awful. Here you are after all, practically trespassing on his private road. You are figuratively defecating on all that this poor individual holds dear. He is the foul-mouthed victim here, wronged at every turn. You are breaking all of his rules.

Only thing is, those are not the rules. Unless he is a Garda.

That Old Chestnut.

Cars do not own the road. As much as a van, truck, car or otherwise, the bicycle is a mechanical vehicle and the rider is a driver. Ireland signed up to the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic and thereby accepted the bicycle’s status on the road being equal to that of any other road users.

Now we get to the core issue; two cyclists riding abreast. The righteous indignation some driver maintain over this is a baseless fiction. They have no more over-taking or road positioning rights than a cyclist does. A cyclist does not have to be squashed in against the road’s left-hand edge, fearing for their lives for every moment. They do not have to fear the capital retribution of a delayed motorist. In 1964 the Irish legislation told us:

“Driving two abreast
29.—(1) A pedal cyclist shall not, save when overtaking other pedal cyclists (and then only if to do so will not endanger other traffic or pedestrians) drive a pedal cycle on a roadway in such a manner as to result in more than two pedal cycles driving abreast.
(2) Pedal cyclists on a roadway shall cycle in single file when overtaking other traffic.”

In 2012 this was once again made explicit, and cyclists’ rights to cycle two abreast were enshrined in the Irish Statute book:

“Pedal cyclists
47. (1) A pedal cyclist shall not drive a pedal cycle on a roadway in such a manner as to result in more than 2 pedal cyclists driving abreast, save when overtaking other pedal cyclists, and then only if to do so will not endanger, inconvenience or obstruct other traffic or pedestrians.”

There are any number of reasons why this was done and has been sustained. To encourage responsible road use? We are more likely to enjoy this sustainable mode of transport when cycle together. Safety perhaps? A group is more visible than a solitary rider. Obligation? Through the Vienna Convention we have, correctly, recognised the cyclist’s right to be on the road.

Does it matter? Next time someone blares the horn because you have dared to venture onto their road, just relax. They are just dickheads.

Law regarding two bicycles abreast on Irish roads

S.I. No. 332/2012 — Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2012.

The Inquisition’s Gift to You

Click here to download a business card sized piece of this legislation. Print it out on card, laminate it, put it on a jersey, stick it to their windscreen or their face. Do whatever you want with it.

The Gardai

Now, what if a Garda drives alongside you and admonishes you for your audacity, your bare-faced willingness to abide by the nation’s laws? What if they ask you to cycle single-file?

You must do as bidden:
“Signals and directions by Garda Síochána to override these bye-laws

3. A driver or pedestrian to whom a pointsman has given a signal under bye-law 24 of these bye-laws, or to whom a member of the Garda Síochána has given a direction for the purpose of preserving order or regulating or controlling traffic, shall comply with the signal or direction, which shall, if it is inconsistent with any other provision of these bye-laws, override that provision.”

So suck it up.

Cycle Tracks?

In 1964 the law also said a cycle track must be used, if provided. In 2012 the wording was changed to “A pedal cycle shall be driven on a cycle track”. So, applying the logic that an unclear wording is a deliberate attempt at preventing a single reading of the law, cycle on the track only if you wish to.

Dublin Cycling Campaign’s notes on rights as a cyclist
The Vienna Convention on Road Traffic
The Irish Statute Book’s 1964 statutory instrument
Rules of the Road – a little vague
Ireland’s Cycling Manual Online

This article was posted by on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 at 21:29.
It is archived in Bicycles, Dublin, Ireland, Legal, Sport, Travel and tagged , , , , , .

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