Edinburgh Council leader Nice Way Code blasts bus ads

Undertaking is not illegal says council chief

by John Stevenson   August 12, 2013  

Nice Way Code Bus Ad

The leader of Edinburgh Council, Andrew Burns, has weighed into the debate about Cycling Scotland’s ‘Nice Way Code’ road safety campaign with an attack on bus ads that encourage cyclists to overtake on the right ‘if you must’.

Writing on his blog, Councillor  Burns says: “Every working day of my life I 'undertake' vehicles - cars, taxis, vans, buses and occasionally lorries. On every occasion I do so; I do it legally; I try and do it as safely as I can; and I do it VERY, VERY carefully.

“To the very best of my knowledge, it simply is not illegal to 'undertake' vehicles on a bike - and I am NOT equating what's legal with what's safe.”

The ads, which are carried on the back of some Edinburgh and Glasgow busses, are part of a £500,000 campaign aimed at improving road safety by asking road users to be nice to each other and follow the Highway Code. But the campaign has been slammed by cycling activists for falsely equating poor behaviour by cyclists with far more dangerous poor behaviour by drivers; reinforcing stereotypes of poor cyclist behaviour; and being simply unlikely to have any effect on road safety.

Councillor Burns writes that if he didn’t pass motor vehicles, “My journey to, and from, work would take a considerably longer time to complete. And I'm just not keen on being advised that, NOPE, I shouldn't undertake a bus? And that - if I must - I can overtake it. Frankly, overtaking any vehicle - into an oncoming traffic lane - can be JUST as dangerous as irresponsibly undertaking a vehicle.”

Kim Harding, the Edinburgh spokesman for campaign group Pedal on Parliament, told the Edinburgh Evening News the bus-ad campaign was a “shambles”.

He said: “When they first came up with the slogan it was originally going to be on the right was ‘be my guest’. That got changed to ‘if you must’ because it was felt they shouldn’t be encouraging ­people to overtake.

“If there’s a bus stopped at a bus stop, what are you supposed to do? Wait behind it until it moves off again?”

In a comment on Councillor Burns’ blog he added: “The fundamental problem with the whole respect agenda is it follows the Forester/Franklin vehicular cycling approach. This has never achieved mass cycling anywhere in the world. If the Scottish Government is serious about Scotland having a 10% modal share for cycling by 2020. Then we need to change to a Sustainable safety approach, which has been proven to work everywhere it has been tried.”

Nice explanation

The Nice Way Code’s blog page explains the bus ads at some length, saying that the “Cycle Training Standards Board favour overtaking on the right,” and even when there is a bike lane that would seem to facilitate overtaking on the left, “there are hazards such as passenger doors being opened into the rider’s path. Riders should also beware of left turning traffic whether or not other road users are signalling their intentions correctly. “

Cambridge cycling blogger Cab Davidson responded on Twitter: “if you have to explain an advert you have failed, failed, failed.”

18 user comments

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Someone else has taken a swipe at these adverts:


Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2089 posts]
12th August 2013 - 12:45


How do we marry up the two apparently contradictory parts of this statement

“even when there is a bike lane that would seem to facilitate overtaking on the left, there are hazards such as passenger doors being opened into the rider’s path"

Are we saying that instead of actually pulling into Bus stops the Buses can just disgorge passengers anywhere they feel like it?

Or are we saying there is no reason to ensure bike lanes avoid/circumnavigate Bus stopping places?

Not happy with either to be honest

Buddha said:

Believe nothing, No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it, Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.

mad_scot_rider's picture

posted by mad_scot_rider [574 posts]
12th August 2013 - 14:27


The Nice Way Code seems to be getting things plain wrong.

They are also relying on some top-secret "research" that, despite multiple requests for clarification on where this is, when it will be published etc, they seem to want to keep secret for now. Hmm.

I just commented this on their site:

“Our bus backs are in keeping with messaging … and with the Highway Code”;

No, I’m sorry, but they’re not. A red circle sign, in the highway code, means you MUST NOT do something – e.g. there’s a law against it. There is no law against undertaking buses in the UK.

A strikethrough of such a sign, somewhat confusingly but in keeping with the highway code, can lift a ban on something (which has previously been banned earlier on the road by another sign). For example, the sign lifting a ban on overtaking. Alternatively some signs do use both the red circle and the strikethrough to ban something, eg the no U turn sign.

You can see these at:


Most adults who cycle, myself included, also drive, and should understand these things. Using the red circle sign like your campaign has done is irresponsible and wrong.

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [591 posts]
12th August 2013 - 14:33


This whole "niceway" campaign appears to be a anti-cycling campaign dressed up as something which it appears not to be.

posted by northstar [1113 posts]
12th August 2013 - 15:13


my god, how incredible from a 'responsible' bus company, beggars belief. The 'if you must' left me speechless ... the sheer arrogance.

posted by Karbon Kev [682 posts]
12th August 2013 - 15:58


The Niceway Code is from the Scottish Government- the buses are only carrying the advert (like they would for toothpaste)

posted by Docroddy [22 posts]
12th August 2013 - 20:01



Cyclists will just ignore the adverts anyway, like they do red lights!


posted by thelimopit [118 posts]
12th August 2013 - 20:07



Cyclists will just ignore the adverts anyway, like they do red lights!


Sounds like a motorist that ignores the rights of a cyclist as well as there responsibilities in accordance with the law and the Highway Code!

Good spot. Shame on the person who wrote it. Why do such people have a license to drive again???


posted by Mattrb78 [22 posts]
12th August 2013 - 22:00


Sorry Docroddy the Niceway Code has got endorsement from Lothian Buses, who actually produced some excellent bus-cycle safety material (posters and video) without Government funding. Notably absent from the lists of endorsing organisations are CTC, Cyclenation (ie Spokes), and POP Scotland, and the story is that several of the consultees told those driving this campaign that the bus back panel was completely wrong and contradicts Rule 63 of the Highway Code as well as the official provisions for cycle lanes to pass buses and other traffic on the nearside. This was one of the reasons that POP Scotland and Spokes refused to endorse the launch.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [508 posts]
13th August 2013 - 5:37


"Lets all get along" Thinking sounds like something the Mafia would say.... When they say it of course there is an implied term ....or we will f**k you up.....

posted by SideBurn [885 posts]
13th August 2013 - 7:25


Half a million pounds that would have been better used - filling in 3 or 4 pot holes to make roads actually safer for all.


posted by Dave Ody [20 posts]
13th August 2013 - 7:39


A V Lowe wrote:
Notably absent from the lists of endorsing organisations are CTC,

CTC do endorse the Niceway Code, sadly.

posted by Al__S [675 posts]
13th August 2013 - 7:44


The point about vehicular cycling not having led to mass cycling ignores the fact that so far, it has mainly been tried in one form: teaching people to cycle in the existing, unmodified, uncivilized car-dominated environment. Now, that's a bit silly, but it isn't a reason to reject the concept of vehicular cycling as such. Even if you believe that cyclists should have segregated infrastructure that goes absolutely everywhere, cyclists are still going to need to go everywhere for a few decades before it is delivered, so we still need to address the problem of civilizing the road environment so that vehicular cycling becomes practicable for a wider range of people.

Saw this yesterday:

It bears out what I have experienced myself as a cyclist living in Germany: on-road cycling can be rather pleasant when motorists are civilized.

posted by bambergbike [87 posts]
13th August 2013 - 8:27


What this advert DOES do, is indicate that the bus operator is aware of the danger their vehicles pose to cyclists who mat 'undertake' perfectly legally. This means they are acknowledging their duty of care in that situation and become liable for any accidents which occur.


posted by Grizzerly [154 posts]
13th August 2013 - 8:42


If cyclists aren't "nice" it's a mild irritant. If motorists aren't "nice" it's lethal.

This fuels the entitlement of motorists and the concept that cyclists are equally at fault/a hazard on the roads.

I wait with baited breath (well Ok ALL of us Edinburgers have waited till we turned blue) for the trams* which run down the right hand lane of Princes St with other traffic/buses on the left.

Are they going to reverse the silly messages on the trams since it's probably impossible to pass them on the right or are cyclists just meant to bugger off and not ask questions? Wink

*mythical form of transport not yet spotted in Edinburgh despite ££££ spent

posted by moonbucket [56 posts]
13th August 2013 - 8:47


"there are hazards such as passenger doors being opened into the rider’s path"

How many cars have passengers, and how many have drivers??

posted by merckxissimo [59 posts]
13th August 2013 - 12:18


“If there’s a bus stopped at a bus stop, what are you supposed to do? Wait behind it until it moves off again?”

Forgive me, but that's exactly what cars must do unless it is safe to overtake. Why should bikes be subject to any difference in rules?

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [997 posts]
13th August 2013 - 12:26


I like it when a council leader is a cyclist. They should all be forced to cycle around their constituency to understand what it is like to be on two wheels. That way when they see something like the Nice Way Code they know what is wrong about it and where they should spend their time and money to actually help cyclists.

posted by TeamCC [146 posts]
13th August 2013 - 21:24