That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to introduce protection for cyclists by setting safe lateral distance when being passed by motor vehicles.
Over the last decade or so, Ireland has seen as extraordinary increase in the number of cyclists on our roads. For example, the number of cyclists in Dublin increased by 160% between 2004 and 2014. Approximately 12,000 commuters cycle into Dublin city centre every day. Cycling Ireland, which has seen a major increase in its membership from 6,000 members just five years ago to 28,000 members now, estimates that approximately 250,000 cyclists regularly use Irish roads. All Irish road users are more than aware of the increased presence of cyclists, which is obviously a good thing from many perspectives. Sadly, these cyclists are particularly vulnerable. Twenty cyclists have been killed on our roads over the past 24 months. This Bill seeks to create a minimum passing distance which motorists must observe when overtaking cyclists. I propose to set this distance at 1 m in areas where the speed limit does not exceed 50 km/h and at 1.5 m in all other areas. We are setting out to create a safe space on our roads where cyclists can feel protected from passing traffic. While most drivers give sufficient space to cyclists, a worrying number of them seem to have an attitude of "no contact, no harm". This kind of irresponsible driving behaviour is simply not acceptable.
Along with my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Regina Doherty, I have been working closely with Mr. Philip Skelton, who is a committed road safety campaigner, to bring this Bill to fruition. Mr. Skelton, who is in the Public Gallery, is the founder of the "Stayin' Alive at 1.5" campaign. He has been working diligently for many years to raise awareness of the need for a minimum passing distance law in Ireland. I am very grateful to him for his commitment to the campaign and for his extensive research into international best practice in this area. Ireland needs to learn from the positive experiences of other countries. To date, laws of this nature have been passed in France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, 28 states in the US, two provinces in Canada and five states and territories in Australia. If we are serious about protecting cyclists on Irish roads, we should follow their good example. This short Bill facilitates that by giving all cyclists, including children travelling to and from their local schools, members of families who go out for a Sunday spin and our future winners of international medals, designated space on our roads where they can feel somewhat safe and protected. That is the very least they deserve. I hope this Bill will receive the support of all Members of the Oireachtas.