Scrap ‘Nice Way Code’ ads - Alison Johnstone MSP

One of the adverts on the back of a Lothian bus. Picture: Andrew Burns
One of the adverts on the back of a Lothian bus. Picture: Andrew Burns
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A CONTROVERSIAL road safety campaign encouraging mutual respect between cyclists and motorists should be scrapped, the convener of Holyrood’s all-party cycling group demanded.

Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone called for the £424,000 Nice Way Code to be replaced with adverts which “takes the subject seriously”.

She said a “considerable” number of constituents had complained to her that the campaign was “insulting and patronising”, while others found the adverts “misleading and even dangerous”.

The initiative urged drivers to give cyclists more space, overtake them with care and to look carefully for pedestrians crossing, while cyclists were asked to obey red lights and not cycle on pavements.

Ms Johnstone said the adverts were more critical of cyclist behaviour than that of any other road users, such as drivers.

One of the adverts warned cyclists not to overtake buses on the inside, and to overtake them on the outside “if you must”, which was criticised by Edinburgh City Council leader Andrew Burns.

Another showed a horse riding a bike with the caption “See cyclist think horse. Slow down and pass with care.”

Ms Johnstone said concerns about the campaign she had raised in June appeared to have been ignored, and she transport minister Keith Brown had not replied to a letter sent three weeks ago.

She told him she was “dismayed and frustrated with the tone of the campaign”.

The MSP said: “I support those who have called for the withdrawal of the Nice Way Code campaign advertisements and suggest an approach that takes the subject seriously and seeks to embed safe and respectful behaviour across all road user groups.”

Spokes, the Lothian cycle campaign, agreed. Spokesman Dave du Feu said: “If the objective is to reduce road casualties, and specifically cyclist casualties, then the answer is to make conditions safer.

“Important measures include infrastructure, speed limit reductions, average speed cameras to ensure compliance, and strict liability legislation.”

However, Ms Johnstone’s move angered motoring groups.

Neil Greig, the Scotland-based policy and research director of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “What a ridiculous thing to call for. Cyclists are at risk until the Scottish Government can deliver safer infrastructure.

“Anything that raises awareness of the need to share the road safely should be welcomed by the cycling lobby.

“Using humour and memorable images will also help to defuse any tensions - tensions that Alison Johnstone seems happy to allow to continue.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said: “The Nice Way Code – which was designed and promoted by Cycling Scotland [the Scottish Government-funded umbrella body] – aims to raise awareness of the issue among all road users through education, enforcement and engineering.

“The Scottish Government announced another £20 million of funding over the next two years to promote active travel in Wednesday’s Budget, in addition to the £58 million already allocated since the 2011 spending review.”

Cycling Scotland said the campaign ended this week but adverts may remain on buses and taxis for some time.

Its spokesman said: “The Nice Way Code campaign was designed to encourage greater respect between all road users and to help protect more vulnerable users like pedestrians and cyclists.

“The campaign was developed in partnership with a wide range of organisations and individuals.

“Alison Johnstone was invited to the stakeholder consultation sessions but was unable to attend.

“However a wide range of stakeholder organisations did attend to consult on both the key messages and creative direction of the campaign including CTC, Sustrans, Scottish Cycling, Pedal on Parliament, Spokes, Paths for All, the Institute of Advanced Motorists, Scottish Taxi Federation, Road Haulage Association and many more.

“The campaign will now be evaluated by an independent research agency so that we can analyse the impact it has had on road behaviour.”