Cycling Scotland’s Give Cycle Space campaign
I started cycling regularly when I lived in London, almost twenty years ago, and it genuinely changed my life. I got fit, saved money, felt less stressed and – crucially – had a guaranteed commute time! I moved back to Scotland a couple of years later and my bike continued to be my favourite way to travel.
As well as the individual benefits, there are so many wider benefits of cycling:
- improved air quality
- reduced climate change emissions
- less congestion and greater local economic spend
Slowly but surely more people are choosing to cycle in Scotland, with 4.9% of people now choosing to cycle to work regularly. Unfortunately, serious injuries to people cycling are increasing in parallel with this rise.
Cycling every day on busy roads means I have experienced my fair share of close passes and near misses, and can understand why safety remains one of the biggest barriers to cycling. Echoing the results from the Near Miss Project, I experience a close pass every day or two – on a spectrum from mildly annoying to really frightening. This can be when someone is overtaking, overtaking and turning left across my path or driving straight towards me on a narrow street, when the obstacle is on their side of the road.
Cycling Scotland’s Give Cycle Space campaign encourages people to give space to people on bikes, helps communicate how it feels to be close passed and raises the profile of legal consequences, including Police Scotland’s Operation Close Pass. Our in-depth research showed that generally close passing isn’t done with malice but that people driving feel more entitled to be on the roads, don’t see people on bikes as equals, and believe their needs are greater. The biggest motivator for people to change their behaviour was knowing the legal consequences of close passing.
Car dooring is another hazard for people on bikes – and highlights one of several reasons it is safer cycling near the middle of the road. Other risks include:
- gaps around ironwork
- loose manhole covers and other surface defects
- debris at the side of the road
They all make painted cycles lane potentially hazardous and, at this time of year, icy and slippery surfaces.
Together with engineering, including segrated cycling infrastructure (not painted lines on roads!), education and enforcement are key to making our streets safer for cycling. We are moving in the right direction, particularly with the increased focus on climate action, but we still have a way to go to make sure everyone feels safe cycling on our roads.
Author – Denise Hamilton from Cycling Scotland