Nine in ten drivers say we should protect people cycling: new Scotland-wide research

3 May 2022    

Findings revealed on day nation’s cycling organisation launches annual TV/radio ad campaign to encourage drivers to give space to people on bikes.

Road safety campaign highlights updates to the Highway Code.

Nine in ten drivers in Scotland say we should protect the most vulnerable road users on our roads, including people cycling, according to new research from the nation’s cycling organisation.

96 per cent of drivers agreed that a vehicle getting too close must be frightening for people cycling. 

89 per cent of drivers also admitted to being frustrated passing someone on a bike at times, highlighting the importance of cycle lanes separated from vehicle traffic for greater safety and harmony of all road users.

These are the findings of a new study of 507* Scotland-based drivers commissioned by the nation’s cycling organisation – Cycling Scotland – to mark the launch of its annual nationwide campaign today (Tuesday 3 May).

Cycling Scotland’s Give Cycle Space campaign – which features a 15-second TV ad shot from the perspective of people who cycle to show what being close-passed feels like – is supported by Police Scotland.

The campaign highlights the recently updated Highway Code rule about passing people on bikes: when overtaking people on bikes, drivers must leave at least 1.5 metres when driving at speeds of up to 30mph and give more space when overtaking at higher speeds.

Updated earlier this year, the Highway Code now states that people driving cars have a responsibility to reduce danger to people on bikes, motorbikes and horses, as well as people walking and wheeling.

It is a careless or dangerous driving offence for motorists to close-pass someone cycling. People can get points on their driving licence and be fined – or receive a criminal conviction for more serious offences.

Cycling safety campaigner and survivor of a collision while cycling, Kirsty Lewin said

I’ve been cycling for decades and find it the easiest and quickest way to travel. After being seriously injured by a lorry driver while cycling to work in 2008 I now use my bike as a mobility aid as walking even short distances is so painful.

I am close-passed on a daily basis and it’s frightening and dangerous. No one should have to suffer this just for getting around on everyday trips. Often the driver involved is caught up in traffic further on or stopped at traffic lights so it’s pointless for them anyway.

We need to make our roads safer and more comfortable for everyone who wants to cycle. Part of that is changing how people drive, helping them understand that it’s really intimidating to be close-passed - and that people on bikes are going to come off a lot worse in a collision.

I support the Give Cycle Space campaign and encourage all drivers to cross over into the other lane when passing someone on a bike.  If you can’t pass with at least 1.5 metres of space, wait at a safe distance until you can – it’s seconds of your time and not worth risking someone’s life. 

Cycling Scotland Chief Executive, Keith Irving said

More people in Scotland are getting on their bikes and enjoying feeling healthier and happier. However, serious cycling casualties have increased over the last fifteen years and four people are seriously injured while cycling every week.

Although the chance of being in a collision with a vehicle while cycling on Scottish roads is low, any serious injury or death is unacceptable.

A network of dedicated cycling lanes, separated from road traffic, is the number one priority to make our roads safer for cycling. We need to accelerate the growth of this network, and the increased budget for active travel from Scottish Government will help to achieve this.

The Give Cycle Space campaign educates drivers about leaving at least a car’s width when passing people on bikes, supported by Police Scotland’s Operation Close Pass.

Close passes are an everyday experience for people cycling across the UK, with data from the Near Miss Project showing that every year people who regularly cycle will “experience an event that is so frightening that it alone makes them consider giving up cycling”. In addition, latest road safety statistics** show that every week in Scotland at least four people cycling suffer serious, life-changing injuries, usually from a collision with a vehicle.

Cycling Scotland’s campaign – which runs on television, radio, online and on buses – is funded by Transport Scotland and supported by Police Scotland. Over the summer, Police Scotland will conduct Operation Close Pass in locations across Scotland to improve road safety. Enforcement is key to preventing road danger. Dashcam and helmet cam footage can provide vital evidence to support this and Police Scotland are developing a new online portal to allow footage to be submitted.


* Five-hundred-and-seven Scotland-based drivers who don’t cycle on roads were asked questions in face-to face interviews between 11th to 21st April 2022 by research company Progressive.

** Source: Reported Road Casualties Scotland 2020.