Drivers urged to give cyclists road space in new 'life-saving' campaign

Drivers warned over 1.5 metre safe space rule for overtaking cyclists as police launch Operation Close Pass across Scotland.

A cycling charity has launched a new safety campaign urging drivers to give cyclists more space on the roads.

Cycling Scotland is working with Police Scotland for its annual ‘Give Cycle Space’ campaign, aiming to reduce close pass incidents and make Scotland’s roads safer for people cycling, by raising awareness of the legal 1.5 metre overtaking distance.

Research shows there are more than 550 casualties in Scotland every year, many of them due to motorists passing too closely.

On average, four people cycling per week suffer serious, potentially life-changing injuries from a vehicle collision.

Drivers in Scotland face a £100 fine or conviction, and penalty points on their licence for passing within 1.5 metres of people cycling when overtaking, and a conviction for a more serious offence.

But a new survey of 500 drivers carried out by Cycling Scotland showed nearly a quarter were aware such an offence could result in a charge of careless or dangerous driving.

It found 97% of drivers agree people who drive too closely to cyclists are putting lives at risk – but over a third admitted they don’t think of someone cycling as a person and are more focused on getting past and on with their journey.

Cycling Scotland Chief Executive Keith Irving said: “Every week in Scotland, at least four people cycling suffer serious, potentially life-changing injuries, usually from a crash with a vehicle. To make cycling safer and support more people to travel by bike, we need a network of dedicated cycle lanes, police enforcement and education on reducing road danger.

“Our campaign highlights that drivers need to give at least 1.5 metres of space when passing someone on a bike. Together with the police, we’re raising awareness of the risks of careless driving.

“More people are taking up cycling in Scotland and even more people need to cycle more journeys for our country to reach net zero. We must not accept a corresponding rise in serious injuries and deaths.

“Please remember to drive safely around people on bikes. Leave space for a life.”

Keith Irving (Chief Executive, Cycling Scotland), Chief Superintendent Hilary Sloan (Head of Road Policing, Police Scotland), and Clare Skelton-Morris (Communications Manager, Cycling Scotland) at campaign launch in Glasgow

The research also found that:

  • 8/10 drivers worry they could seriously injure someone cycling if they don’t give them enough space.
  • 96% of drivers acknowledged that a vehicle getting too close would be frightening for someone cycling.
  • 83% confessed to feeling frustration when trying to pass people on bikes.
  • 30% of drivers didn’t agree that people cycling have equal rights on the roads as drivers.

Supported by Police Scotland, Cycling Scotland’s annual ‘Give Cycle Space’ campaign aims to reduce close pass incidents and make Scotland’s roads safer for people cycling, by raising awareness of the legal passing distance and the responsibility of drivers to safely overtake.

Visuals of people cycling from a driver’s viewpoint humanise the person on the bike, with the television ad showing footage of the friends, family and loved ones of the person cycling.

A dangerous overtake shows the risk that drivers take when they don’t give the required passing distance stated in the Highway Code of at least 1.5 metres.

Over the summer, Police Scotland will conduct Operation Close Pass in locations across Scotland to improve road safety.

Chief Superintendent Hilary Sloan, Head of Road Policing, said: “Every driver has a responsibility to safely overtake cyclists and understand how their actions can impact the life of that person riding a bike.

“As we approach the summer months, there will be more people using Scotland’s roads. All road users should take care, plan their journey and be aware of cyclists who are more vulnerable.”

Shgufta Anwar, Founder of Glasgow-based charity, Women on Wheels added: “I experience so much joy from cycling, but being closely overtaken is an all too familiar occurrence.

“My worst experience was when out cycling with my then primary school aged children, when a car came extremely close to my daughter and revved the engine, frightening her and making her almost fall in front of the car.

“Fortunately, she regained her balance, but it was a really scary experience for us all and she could have been seriously injured.

“As a person who cycles and drives, I think about both when I make choices on the road.

“Scotland’s roads would be a lot safer if all drivers had this perspective – especially if they knew how frightening it was when a car passes too closely.”

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