As a cyclist and a road user in Dublin, I see a lot of reasons why we don’t trust the Gardai to protect us on the roads. There are a lot of reasons why my faith in the enforcement of traffic laws is weak. This has led me to using twitter to try and shame Gardai to do their job, and motorists not to endanger me. As a result, I am blocked by the @GardaTwitter account, but lately I think maybe, maybe, things are changing…..
I returned to cycling in 2012. As an adult I was less happy to have lazy and sloppy motorists endanger me with unnecessary behaviour. I also spoke to some voters at the doors in the 2011 elections who told me that they were having problems with bicycle lanes. My daily commute put me in conflict with buses and taxis who didn’t want to use the loading bay provided for them but who instead chose to park on the two way cycle lane on Inchicore Road. Twice I was hit by cars while trying to negotiate the lane.
I added Kilmainham Garda station as a favourite on my phone, and contacted them every time I met with motorists who refused to remove their cars from the cycle lane. I tried to contact the Garda Traffic Corps, as they were then known, by e-mail. I received no hearing on the matter. I even went to GSOC to see if the Gardai could be compelled to actually answer my queries about how policing could be achieved, but GSOC after loosing the file handed it over to a Garda to adjudicate. The Garda responded with gobbledegook. (We now know that the Gardai had much worse going on. I let the issue drop)
In the meantime I engaged on twitter with pictures of some of the worse offenders and continued informing the Garda station by phone. The squad car was always busy and there was never anyone in a position to deal with the issue. Occasionally I contacted the Garda traffic watch number in Mayo, only to be given out to by staff there who thought that they did not exist to take registration numbers of cars causing a danger to others.
As mentioned above, I was blocked by the @GardaTraffic twitter account as I was posting pictures of cars breaking the law to twitter. I had asked in my e-mail to the Traffic Corps as to how they would like to receive these reports, and received no answer. Twitter was the next avenue open to me. I didn’t stop.
Two years ago, I tried again, sending a letter to the superintendent at my local Garda station. This time, I received a 20 minute call from a Garda who had been instructed to call me, not saying much, but telling me that it was a pity that a particularly excellent Garda had retired, but that a community Garda would be in touch (that was April 2017 – haven’t heard yet)
I did run in to the superintendent, who was attending a gas leak on Inchicore Road. The road had been closed to traffic, and although reopened, a gas networks vehicle was still forcing bicycle traffic into the main traffic by blocking the lane. the Garda told me that he was aware of my letter and know who I was. Still the problems and attitudes persisted.
However, I learned on Twitter lately, (credit to @NoonanJoe) that ‘All reports received by gardaí will be fully investigated.’ (https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/sharing-videos-on-social-media-not-the-way-to-report-crime-garda-1.3775031#.XFHYBShV2ec.twitter ).
I thought I would give it a try. On the way to a meeting I found a number of large wheelie bins on the Inchicore Road cycle lane. I took a quick photo, and tweeted it (of course.) Later, after a few suggestions from people on twitter, I used the web form on the Garda website to contact my local station, suggesting that perhaps they would be turning a new leaf.
Lo and behold, the Gardai have been in contact. The most likely offenders swear it wasn’t them, but there is an investigation going on, and if it happens again, there will be enforcement.
I’m going to believe, for now, that they will enforce. I am considering getting a camera for the bicycle so that I don’t have to stop and take out my phone. I’m not giving up, so keep tuned to @OisinOhAlmhain on Twitter, and we will make this a safer City!