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Stayin' Alive at 1.5 Campaign

Stayin' Alive at 1.5 Campaign
Have you heard about the Stayin' Alive at 1.5 Campaign yet? Phil Skelton in Wexford has set about a campaign to get the government to introduce a law to ensure that vehicles give a cyclist a 1.5 metre passing space, similar to the law in other countries. Maybe you've been to other countries where the signs protecting cyclists have been clear? 


Cycling Ireland has teamed up with Phil to help get this message out there and to create awareness of the need for such a ruling. The next 4000 licence members who will receive their licence will also get a stayin' alive at 1.5 sticker to put on their car rear window, so you too can become part of this lobbying campaign. 

To learn more about this campaign we spoke with Phil about Stayin' Alive at 1.5. 

Phil, you have been really causing waves with your stayin’ alive 1.5 campaign. What is this campaign about?

Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 is a campaign to pursue the adoption of a law that requires motorists to give cyclists 1.5 metres clearance when passing from the rear.


It is a 3 pronged campaign concentrating on (a) a safety campaign through interactions with local government and RSA. (b) Facebook page, website, awareness stall and sale of a dedicated safety jersey etc. and (c) lobbying of politicians in an effort to have the current ambiguous overtaking law amended in line with best practice overseas.


Minimum Passing Distance Laws are in place in 26 US states, 2 Canadian Provinces, France, Spain, Portugal,
Belgium, and is currently being rolled out throughout Australia's states and territories. These jurisdictions use their Dangerous Overtaking Laws to create awareness around the lateral space required to safely overtake a bicycle rider and underscored this awareness by crystallising it as law.


I believe that Ireland's current Dangerous Overtaking law in its current guise is not fit for this purpose.



Our Rules of the Road deal with this matter on page 50 where it states 'you should give extra space when overtaking a cyclist'. This is accompanied by a graphic which doesn't reflect a 1.5 metre distance. The RSA have a flash up graphic of 1.5 metres on one of their awareness videos. The overall awareness message for a matter that is so close to cyclists' hearts seems very light touch and needs to be enhanced in line with other jurisdictions. This and other points were discussed at last years meeting with the transport minister and at last month's meeting with the Road Safety Authority.


What motivated you to drive stayin’ alive?

I live in Wexford and in Feb 2013, we witnessed the tragedy of a second cyclist fatality in an 8 month period on our local roads. Both of these fatalities were as a result of overtaking manoeuvres. In between these 2 tragedies I was hit on the elbow myself by an overtaking car. Rather than give up an activity that I had grown to love, I decided to have a closer look at what other jurisdictions had done about this particular problem. I discovered that other jurisdictions had put a measured, defined lateral overtaking distance in to their overtaking law in relation to cyclists. It just seemed like such common sense to me. This law though is not new. In 1974 Wisconsin US, introduced Minimum Passing Distance Law (MPDL) (so for followers of Making a Murderer, a young Steven Avery at age 12 would have had the added protection of this law growing up there).


I lived in Australia in for 10 years during the '80s and '90s and was drawn to campaigns there at the time as I had an understanding of their system and rules of the road which are similar to our own in Ireland.


Since then I have watched Queensland put a 2 year trial of MPDL in place with some positive early outcomes. This has been followed by the ACT, Sth. Australia, NSW will roll this out in March this year with discussions live in other states there.

I firmly believe that Ireland can prevent some deaths and serious injuries of bicycle riders by implementing MPDL.


We in Ireland are quickly becoming the 'Everybody's out of step except our Johnnie' country with regards MPDL and this drives me to push this to its end game.


How do you think an introduction of a safe passing legislation will impact cycling in Ireland?

First of all, we need to recognise that we have a problem with dangerous overtaking of cyclists in Ireland. Any Google search of dangerous overtaking of cyclists will bring up many YouTube and Vimeo clips. This is one that I personally experienced 

A survey that we conducted last year based on 911 respondents, tells us that 97.1 % had experienced a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre when cycling. We also have a live petition with over 3,000 online and 2,000 physical signatories signed at our awareness stall, who have expressed concern. I have been on the receiving end of a few dangerous overtaking manoeuvres as have many others. A 2014 study by the American League of Bicyclists revealed that 40% of cyclist fatalities there were caused by rear-end collisions. Our own indigenous figures are currently being worked on by the RSA but I don't see them being much different.


This is a behaviour that needs to be modified.


Cyclists hope that other road users overtaking are obeying the road rules and keeping their distance, but unfortunately at the moment that distance is not legally defined. This creates a situation where cyclists take to the roads with a great degree of uncertainty.

It is important that we have a clear law that would also reflect the fact that it is not necessary for a motorist to collide with a cyclist in order to endanger either life or health. This is an anomaly our current law doesn't seem to deal with. This is akin to a speeding offence where most likely no damage to person or property has been sustained, but is there to prevent potential future damage should behaviour not be modified.


This 1.5 metre rule would help to create an environment of safer cycling across the board giving cyclists a 1.5 metre cushion when being passed by a motorist. It is also a great piece of legislation to educate the public about how much space to leave when safely passing a cyclist. Furthermore, enacting the 1.5 metre safe overtaking law would also serve back up the Road Safety Authority’s recommendation.


In Queensland among their early findings have been improved relationships between motorists and cyclists and most importantly has lead to a 70% reduction in cyclist fatalities there. If MPDL is passed and rolled out in a similar manner accompanied by road signage and an awareness campaign here in Ireland too, there is no reason why some needless cyclist deaths and serious injuries couldn't be prevented here too.

In a nutshell MPDL should mean the following:

    • It would mean improved safety by providing a definition of a specified overtaking distance.

    • It would recognise cyclists as legitimate road users who are more vulnerable than other drivers.

    • It would recognise a cyclist’s need to the protection of a defined space whilst sharing the road with other road users.

    • It would provide motorists with a clear, unambiguous, easily recognised measure when overtaking cyclists – otherwise motorists must slow down and wait.

    • It could reduce the risk of cyclist/motorist crashes and also cyclist crashes caused by being side-swiped (not necessarily hit) by motor vehicles.

    • It would be enforceable, in that such a clear law would allow a Garda or witness to readily evaluate a driver’s actions either through eyewitness or camera footage.

    • It would provide cyclists with space to avoid obstacles (e.g. pot-holes, glass, etc.)

    • It would ultimately assist in reducing cyclist fatalities and serious injuries.



MDPL though on its own is not the panacea of all safe cycling. This comes in the guise of Separation, Legislation, Education and clever road design. Make no mistake though, it is a virtual cost neutral measure that can be implemented quite easily and this is very well worth fighting for.


What is your own cycling background?

I'm a latecomer to cycling and I don't have a history in cycling that may of you reading this have. In my mid-forties, I took up cycling as a means of getting fit and weight loss.

I joined Slaney Cycling Club and found myself competing in club races and loved the feeling of something competitive again despite rarely troubling the winners enclosure. I've participated in many sports from marathons to Aussie rules football to tennis and everything in between but cycling as a sport is so honest in its purest form and is probably the hardest sport I've been involved with in that pleasure/pain way.


I raced some open A4 races in 2014 and last year but have reverted to a club licence this year. We have a very active club scene here in Wexford and there's ample opportunity to compete in club races which suit me better.


I really regret not having discovered cycling earlier in life but better late than never I guess.

I have also done many sportives in Ireland and Europe including the Raid Pyreneen, La Marmotte, La Ronde Picarde etc. My bike of choice for sport and leisure cycling is my trusty Ridley Damocles.


I also own an older Giant Defy that I use for commuting.


Last year, I was part of an excellent Irish delegation Dutch cycling study tour which was a real eye opener as to what we in Ireland should be striving for in terms of inclusiveness, safety and convenience.


What can people do to help and support Stayin’ Alive at 1.5?

Most of Stayin' Alive at 1.5's activity is conducted on our Facebook page and now has around 7,250 followers with a regular reach of 750,000/week so please like the page to stay updated. This is how we get safety messages out through social media.

Cycling Ireland have kindly actively engaged with Stayin' Alive at 1.5 and the next 4,000 members will receive a 1.5metre outward facing rear window sticker with your licence. Please attach it to your vehicle to help spread this message far and wide.

Sign our online petition and make your voice heard. Also I would encourage you to read some of the comments to see why this is so important to so many.


Engage with your politicians now that we have an impending election.

Engage with your local councillors an ask them to add the logo to their council vehicles as they have done in Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, Kerry and Wexford and maybe to erect temporary signage as we in Wexford have done.


Write to the minister for transport. CLICK HERE FOR SUGGESTED LETTER.

Share these video clips that we made with Wexford Co Co.

Come and join the inaugural 1 point 5 ride which will be held in Bunclody on June 19th as part of bike week. (Details TBA...keep an eye on the FB page)

If you or anybody you know would wish to be part of the event sponsorship, please get in touch by email stayinaliveat1.5@gmail.com

Most importantly though is to remember that this is OUR campaign, a campaign for each and every person who currently cycles or is too scared to do so, a campaign which will add a protective layer to encourage children to cycle to school, more female riders to cycle, to truly help make cycling a more pleasant and inclusive activity and transport form.

If we go by Queensland's initial figures, then MPDL has the potential of saving lives, Irish lives on Irish Roads...it might even be yours..

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