DRIVERS in Inverclyde are being urged to give cyclists space — or risk three points on their licence.
The council is backing a road safety campaign launched by national agency Cycling Scotland in partnership with Police Scotland.
The ‘Give Cycle Space’ initiative aims to raise awareness of the 1.5-metre -– roughly the width of a car -– distance which drivers must keep when overtaking riders.
Motorists who flout the rule face a careless driving charge from the police, which can result in three penalty points on their licence and a £100 fine, or a more serious criminal conviction.
Research commissioned by Cycling Scotland found that more than a third (34 per cent) of the population don’t always leave a 1.5-metre gap from cyclists, while almost two-thirds of people (64 per cent) were unaware of the three-point penalty on their licence if they are caught driving too close.
Councillor Jim Clocherty, Inverclyde Council’s convener of education and communities, said: “We’re all being encouraged to walk, cycle or wheel as much as possible not just because it’s an environmentally-friendly mode of transport but because it’s good for our health and wellbeing.
“There’s been a sharp rise in the number of people travelling by foot, bike or wheel, in recent times and especially over the last 15 weeks of lockdown. Some places in Scotland have seen a 77 per cent increase in cycling during the pandemic.
“That means roads and paths are busier, particularly with cyclists, so it’s important that we’re considerate towards each other and leave enough space –- something which has taken on even greater significance in an age of two-metre social-distancing to help with the fight against coronavirus.
“Keeping a distance from cyclists is crucial on our roads to ensure the safety of the rider and the driver. It’s not worth jeopardising your licence, wallet and everyone’s safety by not following the rules.”
The study by the national cycling agency also found that eight in 10 people surveyed (80 per cent) find it ‘frustrating’ when overtaking someone on a bike.
But officials say there is no excuse not to leave a 1.5-metre gap and that every week in Scotland, at least three cyclists suffer serious, life-changing injuries, usually from a collision with a vehicle.
Keith Irving, Cycling Scotland chief executive, said: “People driving need to be aware of vulnerable road users around them and give at least a car’s width (1.5 metres) and even more when passing at higher speeds.
“Often that means waiting at a safe distance until there is space to pass. Many people don’t realise that driving too close to someone is damaging even when no contact is made and can put people off cycling. Concern about road safety is also the main reason people don’t get back on their bike.
“As we move out of lockdown, we’re seeing an increase in road traffic and more tragedies on our roads as a result. Each week in Scotland on average, three people cycling suffer a life-changing injury in a crash and in most cases, it’s the person driving, not the person cycling, at fault.”
Dedicated cycling lanes, separated from road traffic, are now the top priority for officials but in the meantime, education and enforcement, where necessary, is the focus.
Police are also conducting Operation Close Pass, which sees an officer in plain clothes on a bike fitted with cameras so that if someone does pass too closely, they can alert colleagues further up the road who will pull over the offending motorist.
Chief Superintendent Louise Blakelock, Police Scotland’s head of road policing, said: “There is room for everyone and we encourage all road users to show consideration and respect for the safety of each other. We all have a duty to make our roads a safer place.”