Laws on cycling in Ireland
In the interest of safety, it’s important that cyclists obey the rules of the road. As a cyclist, you are particularly vulnerable and face a real risk of serious injury or death if you are involved in an accident.
You are legally obliged to keep your bike in good working order. You must cycle with reasonable consideration, and be sober enough to control your bike.
If you are using a bike on a public road in Ireland it must be fitted with reflectors and lights to ensure that you are visible. All bikes on public roads must comply with the Road Traffic (Lighting of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 as amended. This law sets down the type of reflectors and lights that your bike must have and when you must use your bike lights. See our document on Bicycle lights for more information.
In addition to lights, your bike must also have:
- A bell, which can be heard from a reasonable distance
- Front and rear brakes
- A rear reflector that can be seen from a reasonable distance
What other rules of the road apply to cyclists?
The Road Traffic Acts 1961-2014 set out the main provisions for motoring and legislate for bikes. There is also secondary legislation, Road Traffic Acts and Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997-2019, which regulate the behaviour of motorists and cyclists.
When cycling you must:
- Stop at traffic lights when required
- Stop at pedestrian crossings and zebra crossings
- Stop at cycle traffic lights
- Stop at stop signs and yield right of way at yield signs.
- Avoid cycling on motorways (which is illegal)
Section 100 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 makes it an offence to ride a bicycle while holding on to another moving vehicle (other than another bicycle which no one is riding).
Do I have to wear a cycling helmet or hi-visibility clothing?
You are not legally obliged to wear a helmet or hi-visibility clothing while cycling in Ireland. But the Road Safety Authority of Ireland recommends cyclists wear both for safety.
Is it legal to cycle two abreast in Ireland?
Cyclists can cycle two abreast but under Article 47 of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) 1997 Regulations (as substituted by the 2012 Regulations), you must not cycle more than two abreast, except when overtaking and it does not endanger or obstruct other traffic.
Can I overtake a vehicle on the inside?
A cyclist can overtake a vehicle on the left (or inside of the flow of traffic) if the vehicles to the right are stationary or moving more slowly than the cyclist.
However as a cyclist you cannot overtake on the inside if the vehicle you intend to overtake:
- Is signalling an intention to turn to the left and will move to the left before you overtake it
- Is stationary for the purpose of allowing a passenger to alight or board the vehicle
- Is stationary for the purposes of loading or unloading
What are the rules about overtaking cyclists?
When overtaking, it is recommended that drivers should leave 1.5 metres between them and your bicycle in areas with speed limits above 50km/h. In areas with lower speed limits, drivers should allow one metre when overtaking.
Since 12 November 2019, it is a separate offence to overtake a cyclist dangerously. Drivers who overtake you dangerously while you are cycling are liable for a fixed charge of €120, and could have 3 penalty points added to their licence.
Am I legally obliged to use cycle lanes?
You must use a cycle lane if:
- The cycle lane is a contra-flow cycle lane (allowing cyclists to go in the opposite direction to the traffic on a one-way street)
- The cycle lane is in a pedestrianised area or street
If the cycle lane is a contra-flow cycle lane you can only cycle in the contra-flow direction.
The regulation on cycle lanes is contained in Article 14 of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2012.
What are fixed charge offences?
Since 2015 Gardaí have the power to stop cyclists and fine them for specific fixed charge cycling offences. Gardaí can fine cyclists for the following offences:
- No front or rear light during lighting-up hours
- Riding a bicycle without reasonable consideration
- Failing to stop for a school warden sign
- Failing to stop at traffic lights when the red lamp is lit
- Failing to stop at cycle traffic lights when the red lamp is lit
- Failing to stop at a stop line, barrier or half barrier at a railway level crossing, swing bridge or lifting bridge, when the red lamps are flashing
- Cycling in a pedestrianised street or area
The fine for these offences is €40. If you receive a fixed charge notice, you have 28 days from the date of the issue of the fixed charge notice to pay the fine. If it is not paid within 28 days, the charge is increased by 50%. If it is not paid within 56 days then court proceedings are initiated (and payment will no longer be accepted).
If you misplace, lose or damage your fixed charge notice, you should contact the Garda Fixed Charge Processing Office (see ‘Where to apply’ below). A re-print of the notice will be sent to you by post. However, the time period allowed for payment is not extended by your request for a re-print.
If you pay the fixed charge notice within the legal time limits and court proceedings are not commenced, you will not have a criminal record in respect of the offence.
Further information on fixed charge notices is available on the Garda website. If you receive a fixed charge notice from An Garda Síochána, you can apply to have it cancelled due to exceptional circumstances. See the guide to cancellations of fixed charge notices.
Is it legal to cycle on a footpath?
Since 2015 the laws governing cycling have been regulated into specific fixed charge offences. Gardaí have the power to stop and fine a cyclist if they commit a fixed charge offence. Cycling on a footpath is not a fixed charge offence. However other laws do include it as an offence.
- Article 11 of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2012 prohibits you from cycling beyond a traffic sign that prohibits bicycles
- Article 13 of the 1997 Regulations makes it an offence to cycle on a footpath unless you are entering or exiting a property
- Article 45 of the 1997 Regulations (as amended by the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) Regulations 1998), you must not cycle in a pedestrianised street or area during the period indicated by the sign
Although it is not a fixed charge offence to cycle on a footpath a cyclist could be fined for doing so if a Garda deemed their cycling to be without ’reasonable consideration‘.
Is there a legal alcohol limit for cycling?
If a Garda suspects you are cycling under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the point that you do not have proper control of the bike, you can be arrested without a warrant. This is also the case if a Garda has reasonable grounds to suspect you are riding a stolen bike.
Securing your bike
What steps can I take to prevent my bike being stolen?
Gardaí advise people to spend a minimum of 10 per cent of the cost of their bike on two bike locks. They also recommend that you should:
- Lock your bike tightly to an immovable object like a bike stand or lamppost
- Keep the lock off the ground
- Lock your bike in a well-lit public area
- Photograph and keep a note of your bike’s serial number
- Always report a bike theft to the Gardaí
According to Garda figures, the most common time for a bike to be stolen is during daylight between 8am and 5pm.
Where to apply