Over a quarter of people in Scotland don’t know they could get a driving ban or face a prison sentence for driving dangerously around people on bikes

29 April 2024    

Findings revealed as Cycling Scotland launches nationwide cycling road safety campaign, calling for drivers to ‘Leave Space For a Life’.

A new survey of more than 1,000 people in Scotland (1,009) has found that around 1 in 4 people (27%) are unaware that driving carelessly or dangerously around people cycling can lead to a driving ban or prison sentence.

Research has been commissioned by national cycling charity, Cycling Scotland, and released to coincide with the launch of its national road safety campaign, which reminds drivers of the risks they take if they don’t drive safely around people on bikes.

Additional research commissioned by Cycling Scotland, involving more than 500 drivers in Scotland, also found that:

  • 58% of drivers say that knowing a camera could capture their driving behaviour, would change their behaviour around people cycling.
  • 62% of drivers say they always double check their mirrors and blind spot for people cycling before making a turn and other manoeuvres with 38% saying they either often, sometimes or rarely do it.
  • 62% of drivers say the risk of killing or seriously injuring someone would be most likely to ensure they drive safely around someone on a bike.

In collisions between bikes and vehicles, the person driving the vehicle is most often at fault. Previous analysis of road collision injury data shows that 73% of the top five factors which contribute to a collision with a person cycling are assigned to the driver of the vehicle.[1]

New analysis from Police Scotland also reveals that a significant number of drivers who were at fault in fatal collisions between 2015 and 2020 had previous convictions for driving related offences,[2] showing that action is needed to deter and prevent repeat offending.

On average, four people cycling per week in Scotland suffer serious, potentially life-changing injuries from a vehicle collision. Being passed too closely can be a daily experience for people cycling and is damaging even when no contact is made.

It's an offence to drive carelessly or dangerously around people on bikes: drivers in Scotland face a £100 fine 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.

Supported by Police Scotland, Cycling Scotland’s annual Give Cycle Space campaign aims to make Scotland’s roads safer for people cycling, by raising awareness of the legal passing distance, the responsibility of drivers to safely overtake, and the risks they take when they don’t follow rules of the road.

Simon Bradshaw, Cycling Scotland Road Safety Manager said:

“More people are travelling by bike in Scotland which is really positive. To improve our health and environment, we need to enable even more people to choose cycling. What we can’t do is accept a corresponding rise in serious injuries and deaths.

The road safety TV ad shows someone cycling on the road from a driver’s viewpoint, together with images of their life and loved ones in the space next to them - we’re reminding drivers to Leave Space for a Life. Our message is that we’re all people, travelling on the road and wanting to get home safely. Dangerous and careless driving around people on bikes is risking someone’s life and risking serious legal consequences. 

It's clear that a campaign on its own isn’t enough - we need urgent change including networks of dedicated cycle lanes and enforcement to reduce dangerous driving, especially given the number of repeat offenders involved in fatal crashes. Education can also play a key role in changing public opinion and behaviour and we will work with other organisations to ensure that such road safety awareness campaigns can continue.”

Chief Superintendent Hilary Sloan, Head of Road Policing, said:

“Every driver has a responsibility to safely overtake cyclists.

“Cyclists are vulnerable on the road and drivers should be aware of how they can help reduce serious and fatal collisions.

“Police officers are out every day educating road users and carrying out enforcement, and we are part of a crucial partnership response to road safety.”

Nick Simmons, CEO of RoadPeace, said:

"RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, strongly support this campaign. There is clearly still much to be done to make cycling safer and our members want to see an end to the completely unacceptable number of deaths and life changing injuries caused by dangerous and careless driving."

The campaign will run on television, radio, online and on buses from 29th April for four weeks.

[2] In-Depth Road Traffic Fatalities Report for Years 2015-2020, Police Scotland and Transport Scotland. 200 Criminal History Service records were available for the 977 drivers at fault. Of these, 81 drivers had previous convictions for driving related offences.