Positive results from Give Cycle Space signage trial

7 February 2022    
  • Proportion of extremely dangerous close passes dropped from 1% to 0% and dangerous close passes dropped from 50% to 29%
  • Proposal to extend trial to more roads as new Highway Code* is launched in 2022

A pilot project has demonstrated a significant reduction in dangerous overtaking following the installation of new road signs. The sign, advising people driving to give 1.5metres of space when overtaking people cycling, resulted in the proportion of close passes dropping from 50% to 29% of overtakes.

give cyclists space 1.5m road sign

The signs were installed in 2021 near Longniddry (East Lothian) and Strathaven (South Lanarkshire) and temporary cameras recorded the distance given by vehicles before and after sign installation. The results showed a marked improvement in driving behaviour after sign installation in one location while the other location had insufficient overtakes after sign installation to be able to assess any impact.

Overtakes were analysed and allocated to four categories.

1. Very close - vehicles that haven't moved onto the other lane (extremely dangerous) 

car passes a person on bike very closely on the road

2. Close - More than half of the vehicle overtaking is in the same lane as the person cycling (dangerous)

a car passes a person on a bike fairly closely on the road

3. Satisfactory - More than half of the vehicle is on the opposite lane

a car passes a person on a bike with satisfactory space on the road

4. Wide - All of the vehicle is in the opposite lane.

a car passes a person on a bike with plenty of space on the road

Comparing before and after footage at the Links Road, East Lothian, site, the proportion of very close passes dropped from 1% (6/856 total overtakes) to  zero and close passes dropped from 50% (434/856 overtakes) to 29% (56/196 overtakes)

The primary aim of the pilot project was to install/assess road signage, on roads identified as appropriate, in consultation with key stakeholders, and to evaluate its impact on drivers giving space to people cycling.  The key stakeholders for the project were local authority roads departments, Active Nation Commissioner, Police Scotland, Active Travel Delivery Partners, Transport Scotland and Cycling Scotland.

Aecom were appointed as contractor to deliver the project and the Transport Research Institute at Edinburgh-Napier University provided a literature review. The project started in September 2020 and concluded in December 2021.

Reflecting on the results of the pilot project, Cycling Scotland Chief Executive Keith Irving said: “Every week in Scotland, at least four people are seriously injured while cycling and too many people are intimidated by close passing vehicles. Dedicated cycling lanes, separated from road traffic, are the number one priority to make our roads safer for cycling and as we build this network, we need more education and enforcement.

“The results of this initial road signage pilot project are really positive and we look forward to extending the pilot to several more roads to analyse the results and expand the evidence base on where signage can help road safety.

“With more people taking up cycling, especially in the last two years, it’s more crucial than ever that we improve safety on our roads. The Highway Code rules change in 2022 – drivers need to give at least 1.5 metres when driving around someone on a bike. The Give Cycle Space campaign aims to educate drivers and is supported by Police Scotland’s Operation Close Pass.”

Lee Craigie, Active Nation Commissioner said:

““It has always felt uncomfortable for me to extol the personal health and environmental benefits a person on a bicycle might achieve without also acknowledging that many of our roads feel too dangerous to share with motor vehicles.

“While we await a network of safe, segregated cycling infrastructure across Scotland there is a lot we can be busying ourselves with to help more people understand how their actions might cause their fellow road users to feel.

“The significant findings of this pilot project suggests that education on safe passing distances might help establish a more mutually trusting and caring culture between road users and I welcome the prospect of expanding this research further.” 

You can read the report in full.

Info about this project was published in the Scotsman on 5 February 2022.

*Highway Code Changes

The Highway Code previously stated that drivers should “give cyclists at least as much room as you would a car when overtaking”. The new version in 2022 states:give motorcyclists, cyclists, horse riders and horse drawn vehicles at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car

 As a guide: leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds


Other key changes to the Highway Code, in relation to people cycling, are:

  • introducing a hierarchy of road users to ensure those who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others (This means someone cycling will have greater responsibility to look out for people walking, while someone driving would have greater responsibility to look out for people cycling, walking or riding a horse)
  • clarifying existing rules on pedestrian priority on pavements and that drivers and riders should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road
  • establishing guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking people cycling or horse riders and ensuring they have priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead