Cycling in Ireland: From rules to stolen bikes

Almost 13,000 bikes were stolen in Dublin between 2016 and 2018.

Several rules must be obeyed when cycling in Ireland.

A few weeks have passed since the early November tragic death of Indian national Neeraj Jain, who was cycling in Ireland’s capital of Dublin when suddenly hit and killed by a cement truck near St James’s Hospital.

The police are investigating the case. In the meantime, locals and Dublin cycling campaigners have been calling for better infrastructure for cyclists.

Although a number of cyclists killed in collisions with vehicles is not high – nine fatalities recorded in 2018 in Ireland – hundreds of cyclists get injured on Irish roads each year. The 2012 figures show that 630 cyclists got injured and the majority of collisions occurred on Dublin roads. The figure rose to almost a thousand three years after.

To help you keep safe on your part and avoid problems of different nature, you will find the following information in this article:

  • what rules you must follow (as outlined by the Road Safety Authority),
  • which cycling offences and fines you may face,
  • what RUS and RRM signs imply,
  • and how to avoid your bike being stolen.

Rules to obey when cycling in Ireland

Although cycling in Ireland, but not only, is a cheap and healthy way of commuting to work or relaxing, cycling and bicycles in Ireland must follow a number of rules anchored in law.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA), for example, says each bicycle to be roadworthy must have lights, tyres, brakes, chain, reflector and bell in good working order.

Each bike for anyone over seven years old must have two – front and rear – brakes.

Moreover, each cyclist must carry a lamp with a white or yellow light in the front and a lamp with a red light in the back, which are just minimum requirements. This applies to cyclists either riding a bike or just wheeling it on foot. The lights shall be on during lightning up hours, which is the period 30 minutes after sunset on any day and ending 30 minutes before sunrise on the next day, as defined by the 1963 Road Regulations on the lighting of vehicles.

cycling in ireland

Other recommended lighting items include strips of reflective material attached to the bike, reflective armband, and a reflective vest or belt. The lights need not be on if and so long as “the cycle is stopped in course of traffic or is being wheeled by a person on foot as near as possible to the left-hand edge of the roadway.”

Each cyclist must obey road rules, especially those concerning traffic lights (including cycle track lights), pedestrian crossings, pelican crossings, and zebra crossings.

Road Traffic Regulations from 1997 also says that “a pedal cyclist shall not drive a bicycle on a roadway in such a manner as to result in more than two cyclists driving abreast.” If the cyclist overtakes other cyclists, this rule does not apply. “Cyclists on a roadway shall cycle in single file when overtaking other traffic.” This means cyclists are to form a line in which one goes behind another.

Law also protects cyclists when being overtaken by drivers from November 12, 2019: “A driver shall not overtake or attempt to overtake if to do so would endanger or cause inconvenience to a pedal cyclist.” A violation of this rule is most likely to result in a fixed charge of €120 and three penalty points added to a driver’s licence. Hence, drivers are recommended to leave space of at least one metre between them and cyclists when overtaking.

Apart from rules you must obey, you will find some useful advice on how to keep yourself and other road users safe in the traffic listed in the box below. Tips come from the Road Safety Authority:

cycling in Ireland

Cycling offences and fines

Provided a cyclist violates the above-stated rules, they commit an offence and will be fined.

A pedal cyclist must not, for instance, drive or attempt to drive a bicycle when they are under the influence of an intoxicant to such an extent that it makes them incapable of having control of the bicycle. There is no alcohol limit for cycling, though. If they are found guilty, they are liable on summary conviction to a fine no more than €2,000 as stated in the 2010 Road Traffic Act. The police may arrest an intoxicated cyclist without a warrant, too.

Below, you can see a complete list of fixed charge offences involving the driving or use of a bicycle:

cycling in Ireland

A total of 56 days is permitted by law for the payment of a fixed charge. Each cyclist who has been issued a fine has 28 days to pay it. If they fail to do so, they have still another 28 days but the fine then increases by 50%. After 56 days, payment cannot be accepted under any circumstances.

A cyclist can pay by cheque, postal order, bank draft, cash or debit card at any post office. Debit cards issued by banks outside of Ireland are not accepted. It is recommended to have a photocopy of their driving licence. More information on payment can be found here.

A must to drive a cycle track

One of the regulations on road traffic also says that cyclists must use a cycle track when one is provided.

RUS 009, RUS 009A, RRM 022 and RRM 023 are all the part of roads used as a cycle track in Ireland. The first two signs may be accompanied with information on the hours when the cycle tracks are in operation.

The cycle track can be either a separate road or part of a roadway. It can also run through a pedestrianised area if marked with RUS 021. Sign number RUS 059, on the other hand, stands for a contra-flow cycle track.

Where a two-way cycle track is, cyclists are to drive as near as possible to the left-hand side of each line. Many, however, drive their bikes on the pavement. This is not considered as a fixed charge offence, for which a cyclist would be otherwise fined €40, unless the police regard their cycling dangerous to pedestrians.

But cyclists must not drive in the areas where traffic signs ban them from doing so, including a pedestrianised street.

Take a photo of your bike

More than 15,000 bikes, worth about €2 million, have been stolen in Ireland since 2016 (until 2018), the Garda claimed. Bicycle theft is generally expected to rise.

The Garda also said that bikes get stolen most often on Friday and between 8am and 5pm. Half of the bikes are stolen on public streets.

Tips on how to prevent a bike being stolen
  • Spend 10% to 20% of the value of your bike on two locks.
  • Lock your bike tightly to an immovable object.
  • Keep the lock off the ground.
  • Take a photo of your bike, note the serial number and email it to yourself.
  • Lock your bike indoors or in well-lit areas if possible.

Crime Prevention Officer Sergeant Tony Davis also adds: “If you are buying a second-hand bike, look for proof of ownership before purchasing.”

About 12,730 bikes were reported only in Dublin between 2016 and 2018. Just about 10 percent of them was recovered in the same period after all. The Garda’s Flick page provides pictures of property, including bikes, that are in their property stores.

Cycling in Ireland does have its pluses and minuses. Hence, those who would like to become confident cyclists may join trainings offered by Cycle Right.

Peter Dlhopolec
Peter Dlhopolec

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