Drivers in Scotland are unaware of the legal consequences of driving too close to cyclists, according to a new survey.
In the survey, commissioned by Cycling Scotland to mark the launch of its annual cycling road safety campaign, 73% of respondents were unaware they could get three points on their licence for failing to leave at least a car’s width when passing a cyclist.
The campaign – which will run on television and social media until 2 June – is supported by Police Scotland, whose Operation Close Pass takes place across the country.
Operation Close Pass sees a police officer in plain clothes cycling with a camera on the handlebar and rear of the bike. When they are passed too closely by a car, the police cyclist radios colleagues further up the road who pull over the motorist and directs them to a spot where another officer is waiting to talk to them about their driving.
Inspector Andrew Thomson said: “Keeping all road users safe is a key priority for us and this campaign highlights that cyclists are vulnerable when being passed by vehicles too closely.
“Driving too close and not allowing sufficient cycle space when passing is an example of careless driving, and the minimum penalty for this is three penalty points and £100 fine.
“Officers from Police Scotland will be working hard to raise awareness of this offence and encourage all road users to use the roads with respect for others.”
‘Generally good knowledge’
Over the last four years, Cycling Scotland has undertaken independent research with 500 people annually, which shows there is ‘generally good knowledge of the amount of space drivers should give people cycling’.
This research, together with three focus groups held in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, has helped inform the new campaign.
Results from the focus group show that attendees:
- Understood the amount of space that should be given – but admitted that they don’t always follow the advice
- Push consequences to the back of their minds; where consequences were considered, the emphasis was on personal outcomes, not risks to other road users
- Believe poor cycling behaviours excuse poor driving behaviours
- Indicated personal priorities, impatience and a sense of entitlement were at the forefront of thinking when driving
- Had low awareness that passing someone riding a bike too closely was an offence
- Didn’t think of people who cycle necessarily as ‘road users’, with cyclists not quite seen as ‘equals’ on the road.
Keith Irving, Cycling Scotland chief executive, said: “Cycling has huge benefits for both physical and mental health and to encourage even more people to cycle, we need to make sure people feel safe cycling on our roads.
“Our new TV ad campaign shows how it can feel to be close passed and increases awareness of the legal consequences for people driving too closely to someone cycling.”
Michael Matheson, Scotland’s cabinet secretary for transport, said: “Driving too close to a cyclist can put lives at risk.
“This campaign will help raise awareness of the importance of safe passing distances and remind drivers of the action that the police will take if cyclists are put at risk.”