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Bike lane-using cyclist claims police said close pass by bus driver wasn’t against the law – because “everyone was in their own lanes”

Update: According to the Edinburgh-based cyclist, Police Scotland have now reported the close pass to the Procurator Fiscal following a review of the incident

Update: A cyclist who was on the receiving end of a close pass from a bus driver while riding in a painted cycle lane in Edinburgh city centre, only to be later told by the police that the overtake wasn’t against the law because “everyone was in their own lanes”, has now confirmed that Police Scotland have reported the case to the Procurator Fiscal, following an internal review of the incident.

The cyclist, who posted a clip of the close pass on Twitter last week – which can be viewed in the original article below – wrote on the social media platform on Tuesday afternoon: “Following a review (initiated by me putting a complaint in), the police have changed their mind and will be reporting the case to the [Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service]!”

Responding to road.cc’s request for comment, Police Scotland’s Road Policing Inspector Steve Manson said: “It is imperative all road users, including cyclists, are aware of their vulnerability irrespective what mode of transport they are using.

“When passing a cyclist, you should ensure you allow sufficient time and distance to do so without compromising their safety by making sure you can see far enough ahead to know it is safe to complete the overtake. Frustration or lateness are not excuses to risk someone’s safety.

“There is room for everyone on our roads and we all have a right to be there. We encourage all road users to show consideration and respect for the safety of each other.”

Original article below:

A cyclist in Edinburgh, who was on the receiving end of a close pass from a bus driver while riding in one of the city’s painted cycle lanes, has slammed Police Scotland’s response to the incident, after he claimed that officers told him that the overtake wasn’t against the law as “everyone was in their own lanes”.

The cyclist, who uses the handle EdCycleHome on Twitter, where he regularly posts videos of close passes and poor driving, was riding in the cycle lane on South Bridge, near Edinburgh city centre, on the morning of 28 March when a bus driver narrowly squeezed past him.

Posting the video of the dangerously close pass on Twitter, the cyclist claimed that Police Scotland officers who viewed the footage told him that the close pass “wouldn’t be against the law, since everyone was ‘in their own lanes’!”

The cyclist also alleged that officers told him that “if I’d been hit then this would have been a different story”.

He continued: “So apparently in Scotland we need to get killed before the police could raise a finger.”

Turning his attention to the City of Edinburgh Council’s transport convenor Scott Arthur, who has been criticised in recent months by cyclists over what they believe to be the local authority’s questionable active travel policies, the Twitter user then warned other cyclists in Edinburgh to avoid using the city’s non-segregated painted bike lanes “for your own sake”.

“I certainly won’t be anymore!” he tweeted.

> “Is that the unicycle lane?” Cyclists blast new painted cycle lane that’s “narrower than a pair of handlebars”

Speaking to Edinburgh Live, the cyclist – who wishes to remain anonymous – said the close pass was “a shocking reminder as to why hitting the council’s declared 30 percent reduction in car journeys would be unachievable with the current non-existing cycling infrastructure.”

In response, Labour councillor Arthur said in a statement: “Changes to the Highway Code include guidance that drivers should give cyclists a car width’s space when passing them, and I would urge all drivers to heed this regardless of whether there is an advisory cycle lane in place, in the interests of vulnerable road users’ safety.

“We take cycle safety, along with that of other vulnerable road users, extremely seriously in Edinburgh. I am certain, however, that segregation is preferable to advisory cycle lanes. That’s why we’re investing in a range of projects to expand cycling, walking, and wheeling infrastructure across the city, as well as improving road safety and raising awareness amongst drivers.”

> Cycle lane notorious for parked cars "urgently" needs bollards, councillor warns "genuine concern" of fatality

Lothian Buses, replying to the cyclist’s complaint concerning their driver’s conduct, apologised for the close pass and insisted that they “place great importance on our driving staff displaying professional knowledge, awareness, and skills when behind the wheel of our vehicles, which includes the rights of other road users.

“We have highlighted the problems that cyclists encounter on the roads through our cycle awareness training schemes and placed information notices in our depots instructing drivers to allow for extra space and time when carrying out a manoeuvre involving a cyclist.”

After further prompting from the cyclist, the bus company said that the incident was currently being investigated by the relevant garage manager, but that they are “unable to divulge the outcome or action taken with a driver”.

> Driver escapes punishment for alleged hit-and-run on cyclist, as victim blasts police inaction and “barriers to justice”

The close pass in Edinburgh isn’t the first time this year that Police Scotland have been criticised by cyclists when it comes to their alleged indifference to poor driving.

In February, one cyclist blasted what he said was Police Scotland’s “appalling” inaction that enabled a motorist to escape punishment for an alleged hit-and-run, which the rider claims left him with a broken bike and “unable to sit down for a week”.

Cyclist Alan Myles told road.cc that, despite contacting East Dunbartonshire Police around 30 times in relation to the incident, he only received two responses – with one officer even taking over six months to reply to an email containing the crash footage.

Myles also claims that those investigating the apparent collision failed to contact two witnesses, and that an officer told him that, due to the lengthy delay in tracking down the motorist, the offence had been downgraded from dangerous to careless driving because “the driver couldn’t remember the incident”.

> Not giving up — why a camera cyclist driven off social media by abuse won’t stop reporting dangerous motorists

The cyclist added that he only discovered that the case had been thrown out after contacting the Procurator Fiscal, who dismissed the police’s report as time-barred – over a year after the alleged hit-and-run took place.

“This was not my first disappointment either, so it doesn’t feel like a one off,” he told us. “Whilst I know that there will always be bad drivers, the lack of action from the police has had a greater and longer lasting effect.

“A different officer who I was giving a statement to about another incident of dangerous driving by a bus driver said, ‘Cyclists boil my piss too sometimes, but this driving is unacceptable’, which doesn’t seem like a level playing field to start a conversation on.”

Myles also joined the growing calls for Police Scotland to adopt an online portal for reporting instances of dangerous driving, along with “dedicated officers and resources that do not allow things like this to happen”.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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61 comments

Avatar
Rekrab | 10 months ago
0 likes

Yeah this isn't a close pass. I also ride in Edinburgh everyday. This is tame.

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grOg | 10 months ago
0 likes

Painted line bike lanes predate close pass laws; technically close pass laws relate to passing in the same lane; drivers would certainly have a legal defence driving within their lane while passing a cyclist using a bike lane.

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Jetmans Dad replied to grOg | 10 months ago
7 likes
grOg wrote:

Painted line bike lanes predate close pass laws; technically close pass laws relate to passing in the same lane; drivers would certainly have a legal defence driving within their lane while passing a cyclist using a bike lane.

If true, that only serves to emphasise the point that cyclists should never, under any circumstances, use an on-road, painted cycle lane (except, perhaps, to filter to the ASZ box at the front of a queue of traffic). 

If the law is going to choose a narrow view of "overtaking" a vulnerable road user that means if you are not in the same lane you are not overtaking and so can pass as close as you like to the VRU with impunity then either the law needs to change and be more specific, or councils need to be encouraged to get rid of the lanes as a matter of urgency. 

As far as the lanes predating close pass laws, that isn't really relevant ... I can't get away with hacking, just because computers existed before the Computer Misuse Act did. 

All that said, I was under the impression that the UK didn't have a specific close pass law, and drivers were generally prosecuted for driving without due care and attention, which would allow for the courts to find a driver guilty of a close pass even if the vehicles were in separate lanes. 

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brooksby replied to Jetmans Dad | 10 months ago
4 likes

Don't forget that gr0g is in Australia, and that country has some odd laws...

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Awavey replied to grOg | 10 months ago
4 likes

There are no such things as close pass laws,mores the pity, drivers in cases like this are prosecuted under careless and inconsiderate driving laws which have probably been around since the highway code came into being 90 years ago.

There is no condition that the driver and vehicle have to be in the "same lane" for it to count, the test is simply the driving falls below the standard of a careful and competent driver.

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wtjs | 10 months ago
6 likes

The 'change of heart' (obviously a misnomer, because it doesn't indicate anything of the sort- the original decision remains as what they actually believe) is welcome but I hope EdCyclehome will tell us what actually happens. The police maintain a whole battery of non-action actions, which may differ between Scotland and England. I don't know if the 'Fiscal' is used as a dodge by the police like the CPS is used in England: "dropping the case was nothing to do with us, it was the CPS, squire". Lancashire Constabulary uses a trick where they claim to be taking action but won't tell you which of the profferred options they will adopt- and one of the options is 'no action at all'. People may be sick of me writing this, but it's important. LC has in the past emailed me to say that if I want to know what action they took, I should make a FoI request. I have not done that until now because I was saving it for a test case (I knew they were going to find a way to refuse!), and the last post here shows LS's response - a really stupid way of refusing to tell me anything.

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Awavey | 10 months ago
8 likes

Blackbelt barrister has done a video on this now https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-jiI37sueU  and through CycleGaz has an example of a close pass whilst a rider is in a cycle lane that was prosecuted.

what I also found interesting was the very last legal trivia point he raises that if Police Scotlands view is they wont enforce the highway code with these cases, then the local authority might end up with a legal liability through malfeasance, ie they did something, painted some lines on a road, but did it badly, not enough space, that it creates a danger to people using it.

and I wonder if the legal beagles at Cycling UK have ever considered pursuing a case against a local authority on that point before ?

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wtjs | 10 months ago
4 likes

This is is yet more evidence that painted cycle lanes are, and are designed to be, considerably worse for cyclists than no cycle lanes at all. The only benefit accrues to close passing drivers who are provided with a permanent excuse to pass as close as they like. I now view the installation of these narrow painted lanes as an overt hostile act directed at cyclists.

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grOg replied to wtjs | 10 months ago
0 likes

They were better than nothing back when drivers could legally pass a cyclist with the same distance as a parked vehicle, ie, as long as you didn't hit, all good..

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bobbypuk replied to grOg | 10 months ago
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No they weren't. They gave drivers an excuse to bully riders who dared get out of the gutter. Taking a safe road position when some numpty has painted a stripe on the side of the road is seen as obstructing the traffic and antagonises drivers. Take the same position without the gutter stripe and nobody minds.

 

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brooksby replied to wtjs | 10 months ago
1 like
wtjs wrote:

This is is yet more evidence that painted cycle lanes are, and are designed to be, considerably worse for cyclists than no cycle lanes at all. The only benefit accrues to close passing drivers who are provided with a permanent excuse to pass as close as they like. I now view the installation of these narrow painted lanes as an overt hostile act directed at cyclists.

I think the usual painted lane would be fine if there was then another painted buffer zone of the same or greater width between the lane and the motor vehicles.

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hawkinspeter replied to brooksby | 10 months ago
2 likes
brooksby wrote:

I think the usual painted lane would be fine if there was then another painted buffer zone of the same or greater width between the lane and the motor vehicles.

The magic paint would be fine if the drivers used due care and consideration of other road users.

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Bungle_52 replied to hawkinspeter | 10 months ago
3 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

The magic paint would be fine if the drivers used due care and consideration of other road users.

If drivers used due care we would't need any special infrastructure at all. That is why the police response here and elesewhere is so disappointing. Imagine how much money we could save if they punished inconsiderate driving properly.

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chrisonabike replied to Bungle_52 | 10 months ago
0 likes
Bungle_52 wrote:

If drivers used due care we would't need any special infrastructure at all. That is why the police response here and elesewhere is so disappointing. Imagine how much money we could save if they punished inconsiderate driving properly.

And if they were limited to below 20mph wherever there were cyclists.  And there weren't more than a couple of hundred motorists using the space every hour.  And they didn't overtake...

I agree there's some low-hanging fruit in terms of some basic feedback (enforcement) for drivers, and we can definitely improve training / testing (e.g. more than once per lifetime).  I don't think that will change how most people feel on many roads, nor make a huge difference to actual safety (which is already statistically good).  It certainly won't lead to many more taking up cycling for transport.  Sadly two very different transport modes are just not compatible with each other when there are many of either.

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didsthewinegeek | 10 months ago
4 likes

Clearly both the Bus driver and the Scottish police are ignorant of rules 162 and 163 of the highway code. The Scottish police particularly so, as they are making up the law in their response. Surely there must be a mechanism of making a complaint about the policeman's (decision maker) conduct in this instance. 

 

I remember making a complaint about someone who intentionally swerved into me and a chap behind willing to make a statement. The attending policeman stated that I needed CCTV/video evidence. I calmly told him would he like me to make a complaint against the drivers conduct or his own. By the end of the day after investigation by himself, he found a CCTV camera that had recorded the whole event. Stike 1 for big brother!

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Broken_Chain | 10 months ago
0 likes

Let's turn ALL ROADS into one giant cycle lane - that'll be best for the UK.

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brooksby replied to Broken_Chain | 10 months ago
2 likes
Broken_Chain wrote:

Let's turn ALL ROADS into one giant cycle lane - that'll be best for the UK.

How are you defining "best for the UK"? 

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chrisonabike replied to brooksby | 10 months ago
7 likes

Are you not aware of the Nigel/Martin/Socrati standard?  Essentially equivalent to the leafy lanes of Essex and quiet cul-de-sacs.  A state where Cambridge graduates, those in the financial sector etc. can progress unimpeded at suitable speeds in motor vehicles appropriate to their status.  Where parking is unrestricted to allow you to get where you have to suitably dressed (something something "ladies").

Of course cycling is permitted but since it's always recreational (or just for oiks, yobs and those entitled children) those involved will obviously politely get out of the way of their motorised superiors the moment they appear.  And dismount in the presence of pedestrians to avoid causing them to fear for their lives. 

I think it's located somewhere in the 1950s - 1970s.

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bobbypuk replied to Broken_Chain | 10 months ago
2 likes

All roads except motorways are already one giant cycle lane.

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chrisonabike | 10 months ago
7 likes

Cllr Scott Arthur got one thing right:

Cllr Arthur wrote:

I am certain, however, that segregation is preferable to advisory cycle lanes.

Almost anything - possibly including just taking the money and setting fire to it - is preferable to advisory cycle lanes.

Fully separated cycle *paths* are what's needed. If up to scratch (eg. the Leith Walk slalom is not even quite up to Copenhagen standard, never mind Dutch). Combined with a motor traffic diet and provision of suitable public transport.

Of course it'd be nice if the police enforced the law and even better if "professional drivers" followed the "guidance" in the HC.

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IanGlasgow replied to chrisonabike | 10 months ago
3 likes

[/quote] Almost anything - possibly including just taking the money and setting fire to it - is preferable to advisory cycle lanes. [/quote]

You're right, it is better to set fire to the money.
Advisory cycle lanes INCREASE the risk of injury (by 34% - so 1 in 4 accidents on a road with an advisory cycle lane wouldn't happen if the lane wasn't there).
https://findingspress.org/article/18226-cycling-injury-risk-in-london-im...

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Awavey replied to IanGlasgow | 10 months ago
0 likes

in London, which that study only focussed on, where the levels of infra and traffic combine in ways that are not common to the rest of the country or cycle lanes outside of the capital.

so I dont believe its right to quote that study as a guide to anything but the subset of London data it was looking at.

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wycombewheeler replied to Awavey | 10 months ago
2 likes
Awavey wrote:

in London, which that study only focussed on, where the levels of infra and traffic combine in ways that are not common to the rest of the country or cycle lanes outside of the capital.

so I dont believe its right to quote that study as a guide to anything but the subset of London data it was looking at.

I thought similar results had been found in studies elsewhere, painted lines generally increase risk to cyclists, even though they make them feel safer.

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Awavey replied to wycombewheeler | 10 months ago
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If you can find such a study I'd be interested to read it.

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OnYerBike replied to Awavey | 10 months ago
3 likes

This one seems to find a similar thing in Brussels: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0001457513002686 (pre-pub full text here).

Whilst I agree it's sensible to apply caution when extrapolating from any one study, I also think it's informative to consider the evidence that is available, even if it's not perfect. The study did cover all of Greater London, the vast majority of which I would say is not especially different with regards to traffic or infrastructure than most other urban or suburban environments. 

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hawkinspeter replied to IanGlasgow | 10 months ago
4 likes
IanGlasgow wrote:
Quote:

Almost anything - possibly including just taking the money and setting fire to it - is preferable to advisory cycle lanes.

You're right, it is better to set fire to the money.
Advisory cycle lanes INCREASE the risk of injury (by 34% - so 1 in 4 accidents on a road with an advisory cycle lane wouldn't happen if the lane wasn't there).
https://findingspress.org/article/18226-cycling-injury-risk-in-london-im...

Magic paint lanes are useful for filtering past slow/stationary traffic though.

I'd guess that the most dangerous parts of the lanes are where they cross side roads or junctions or more likely they don't cross and just evaporate. That sets up a mismatch of expectations as the cyclists believe (correctly) that they have priority to continue straight and some drivers believe (incorrectly) that as the lane has vanished, they can turn across/into cyclists.

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jh2727 replied to hawkinspeter | 10 months ago
5 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
IanGlasgow wrote:
Quote:

Almost anything - possibly including just taking the money and setting fire to it - is preferable to advisory cycle lanes.

You're right, it is better to set fire to the money.
Advisory cycle lanes INCREASE the risk of injury (by 34% - so 1 in 4 accidents on a road with an advisory cycle lane wouldn't happen if the lane wasn't there).
https://findingspress.org/article/18226-cycling-injury-risk-in-london-im...

Magic paint lanes are useful for filtering past slow/stationary traffic though.

I'd guess that the most dangerous parts of the lanes are where they cross side roads or junctions or more likely they don't cross and just evaporate. That sets up a mismatch of expectations as the cyclists believe (correctly) that they have priority to continue straight and some drivers believe (incorrectly) that as the lane has vanished, they can turn across/into cyclists.

I'd say that advisory lanes serve two purposes:

  1. They (perhaps) provide a space to filter past when traffic is stationary.
  2. They show where not to cycle when traffic is moving freely. 
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mattw replied to chrisonabike | 10 months ago
4 likes

I'd say that the Leith Walk crazy paving does not reach *Scottish* standards, which assessment I admit I have made without reading all 300 pages of the doc.

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ChuckSneed | 10 months ago
4 likes

Just another reason to ride in the road and not in the bike lane. You have every right to be in the road, so use it. You are much safer there.

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ChurchillR | 10 months ago
6 likes

Well, if that's the police view, I'm sure they'll be recommending that cyclists stay outside the cycle lane in order to get the benefit of the 1.5m passing rule, won't they?

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