Cyprus Mail

Cyclists want vote on new bill postponed

THE Cyprus Cycling Federation wants to postpone the vote of a bill regulating transport with bicycles slated to be sent to the plenum next week, as this needs amendments, the group’s deputy chair George Apostolou said on Friday.

He explained that although the cycling community supports the spirit of the new bill, there are serious shortcoming in the details of the new regulations, that might deter people from using bicycles as a healthy mode of transport.

Discussion on the bill at the House transport committee concluded on Thursday and it now goes to the plenum for a vote on April 14, the last day of the current parliament, where it is most likely to pass unanimously, the committee’s chair Antonis Antoniou said.

The feedback from all parliamentary parties has been positive and if passed, Antoniou said, the new law will come into effect from October 1.

He added that the aim of the bill is to promote the EU policy on environmentally friendly transportation and to promote safe road transportation. It also aims to encourage the public to use bicycles as an easy and affordable means of transport, but also to relieve road traffic, Antoniou said.

The bill regulates road behaviour of cyclists but also of motorists, their obligations, and introduces penalties for several offences.

Cyclists, the bill stipulates, should have both hands on the handle bars while riding, except when doing hand signals to indicate they are turning left or right, and they should also abide by the traffic signs.

Cycling is prohibited in pedestrian areas, as is parking vehicles on bicycle lanes. It is also not allowed to tow objects or to hold an animal by the leash while riding a bike.

Antoniou told the Cyprus Mail that the bill provides for extrajudicial fines ranging from €25 to €85, but serial offenders may be taken to court where they face steeper penalties.

For instance, the €50 fine is for those who abandon or place an obstacle in a bicycle lane, cyclists who do not use lights at night, or who do not abide by traffic signs, as well as carrying a passenger.

A cyclist being towed by another vehicle will get a €25 fine.

Drivers of motor vehicles are also subject to fines, according to the proposed bill. A driver who refuses or neglects to adjust his car’s speed and course to facilitate cyclists, or who parks on a bicycle lane, faces an €85 fine.

The same applies for drivers whose road behaviour disrupts the course of a cyclist, and who do not give priority to cyclists where necessary.

These fines will have to be approved by the cabinet as soon as the bill is passed by parliament.

Antoniou said that the bill does not provide for obligatory use of a helmets, as it was deemed during the committee discussion that it would discourage many people from using bicycles.

In some countries, the use of a helmet is obligatory, in others it is not, Antoniou said, adding that the specific issue might be raised again later and amended.

Although the bill is a positive step toward safeguarding the rights and obligations of all, including cyclists, the federation’s Apostolou told the Cyprus Mail that with a few amendments, “it can be a great tool toward the growth of cycling in Cyprus, but also to  attract athletes on the island”.

He added that the federation is trying, in cooperation with Transport minister Marios Demetriades, and the House Transport committee, to postpone the vote until July, to give time to all stakeholders to submit their suggestions for discussion.

“In the past, we had made specific suggestions, but they were not considered,” Apostolou said.

He added that the federation and cyclists in general spotted a number of provisions that they believe are not applicable.

For instance, he said, there is a provision which stipulates that in the case of four or more people cycling together, they should do so in pairs.

“This is not possible for training athletes, or in cases of group cycling,” Apostolou said.

He also disagrees with the provision that prohibits cycling on pedestrian roads, mainly due to the lack of and the poor condition of existing bicycle lanes.

“This means that people will risk being fined daily”, Apostolou said, “and it will result in discouraging people from cycling, quite the opposite of what this bill aims to do”.

He added that an important omission is the rebuttable presumption of liability of motorists, according to which if a driver hits a cyclist it is the former’s fault, unless he is able to prove otherwise.

“This is a basic tool which has proven to be very effective in other countries, as it creates road awareness,” Apostolou said.


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