Leave Space For A Life

As Scotland’s national cycling charity, Cycling Scotland has a role in helping to safeguard cyclists whilst also promoting the benefits of cycling. Bright Signals was commissioned to develop Cycling Scotland’s 2023 advertising campaign, driving home the message that the Highway Code requires drivers to give people on bikes at least 1.5 metres when passing.

Cycling Scotland

GOLD Winner of the Marketing Society Scotland Star Awards Public Sector category!

In an average week, four people who cycle in Scotland suffer serious or life-changing injuries. Despite more people taking to their bikes, evidence shows that fear of road traffic remains the biggest barrier to more people cycling, and – for those who do cycle – being passed too closely by someone in a vehicle is a daily experience.

With the 2021 RITS Driver Attitudes and Behaviours Tracker concluding that “leaving a car’s width on passing bikes is the least likely good practice to be followed”, we faced a daunting challenge if we hoped to change driver behaviour.


During our research phase we found that drivers often referred to “bikes” rather than “a person on a bike”. A vehicle, rather than a human; an “us vs them” mentality that further distanced their feelings towards them. This dehumanisation deeply belied the significant vulnerability of cyclists in comparison with car drivers. A BBC Panorama documentary ‘Car vs Bike’ reported ambulance calls from a driver following colliding with two fathers as “I’ve hit two, I’ve hit two…two bikes”.

The emotional significance of this sat with us as we embarked on our campaign development. Our core insights then, were simple, but no less crucial. Firstly, we needed to overcome a clear and deeply subconscious attention deficit. We needed to “jolt” audiences. And secondly, there’s an “empathy gap” between people driving about people on bikes. We needed to close it.

Cycling update 2

First, we translated these insights into a clear and simple core message: “It’s not a bike, it’s a person”. Next, we focused on how to ensure this message would actually resonate.

We wondered, what if we could turn the practical 1.5 metre message to our advantage? What if we placed something emotional into that space? What if we equated the space to a life? Suddenly we had our campaign line and a plan for our creative: LEAVE SPACE FOR A LIFE.

We created a visual device in the space next to our cyclist that showed emotional moments through his life; a baby being born, a wedding… his life. We then showed what happens when that space is interrupted. We created a visual device that communicates an emotional message without being overly graphic or shocking.

Leave Space Image Header

With creative in place, we took a funnel approach to messaging by media format, using TV for broad reach and VOD/SkyAdSmart to geo target to our audience with our core message.

The core film was supported by out of home billboards, bus rears, digital advertising on Meta and Numodo and more.

The results were impactful:

  • A staggering 97% of drivers who’d seen the campaign agreed that it encouraged them to give cyclists 1.5m metres when passing.

  • In terms of our creative approach, 97% also agreed with the statement "The advertising reminds me that a cyclist is a person with people who care about them whose safety must be prioritised", demonstrating beyond any doubt that our approach had delivered on that all important emotional connection.

  • When asked about the law in relation to passing a bike, campaign recognisers were almost twice as likely as non-recognisers (71% vs 46%) to mention 1.5 metres.

  • Most importantly of all, the vast majority (89%) of drivers who had seen the campaign had taken or planned to take action and change their behaviour as a result.

To add further success to the campaign it has won GOLD in the Public Sector category at the Marketing Star Awards 2024!