Road Safety News

ASA ban on Cycling Scotland TV ad under review

Wednesday 29th January 2014

The Advertising Standards Authority's (ASA) ruling that a TV ad produced by Cycling Scotland should not be shown in now under review.

The ASA originally ruled that the ad should not be shown again because one of the cyclists is not wearing a helmet and is cycling too far from the kerb.

The ASA objected to the ad on "health and safety" grounds but has now withdrawn its "potentially flawed" ruling while an independent review takes place. The ASA is still saying the ad cannot as yet be broadcast in its current form.

A statement on the ASA website reads as follows: "The ASA has withdrawn its formal ruling against a Cycling Scotland ad pending the outcome of an Independent Review. That followed a request from Cycling Scotland, in which it argued that the ASA’s criticism of the positioning of the cyclist was incorrect.

"The decision to withdraw was made by the ASA chief executive in light of a potential flaw in our ruling. Once the Independent Review process is complete we will publish our decision on our website."

The ad, part of a campaign by Cycling Scotland, encourages drivers to give cyclists the same space and care as they would when passing a horse rider.

The voice-over on the ad says: "Not a lot of people know this but you should treat a cyclist the way you treat a horse ... slow down, treat them with care and give them their space on the road."

The final shot shows a young woman cycling down the road with a caption on the screen saying: "See cyclist, think horse."

The original ASA ruling says that five complainants challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and harmful, because it showed a cyclist without a helmet or any other safety attire, who was cycling down the middle of the road rather than one metre from the curb.

In its response to the ASA, Cycling Scotland pointed out that wearing a cycling helmet is not a legal requirement in Scotland, but a personal choice for the individual. It said that this point was illustrated in the ad, by showing various cyclists with and without helmets.

Cycling Scotland further commented that cycling had a “high benefit:disbenefit ratio”, even when factoring in injuries. It also referred to its helmet policy, which discusses the possible undesired outcomes of wearing helmets, including limiting uptake of cycling (leading to less physical activity) and influencing a driver’s behaviour to be less careful when interacting on the road.

With regards to the cyclist’s positioning, Cycling Scotland stated that given the width of the road featured in the advert, the cyclist was safer riding out past the parking area where they could be clearly visible to other road users. Furthermore, they informed the ASA that the shoot for the advert was supervised by one of its most experienced cycling instructors.

In its assessment, the ASA acknowledged that the ad was primarily encouraging motorists to take care when driving within the vicinity of cyclists.

It also noted that while “UK law did not require cyclists to wear helmets or cycle at least 0.5 metres from the kerb, under the Highway Code it was recommended as good practice for cyclists to wear helmets”.

The ASA ruling continued: “Therefore, we considered that the scene featuring the cyclist on a road without wearing a helmet undermined the recommendations set out in the Highway Code.

“Furthermore, we were concerned that while the cyclist was more than 0.5 metres from the kerb, they appeared to be located more in the centre of the lane when the car behind overtook them and the car almost had to enter the right lane of traffic.

“Therefore, for those reasons we concluded the ad was socially irresponsible and likely to condone or encourage behaviour prejudicial to health and safety.”

The ASA ruled that the ad breached BCAP Code rules 1.2 (Social responsibility), 4.1 and 4.4 (Harm and offence), and must not be broadcast again in its current form.


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Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

From the ASA's website "Our mission is to ensure that advertising in all media is legal, decent, honest and truthful, to the benefit of consumers, business and society". In which part of "legal, decent, honest and truthful" did they find a breach, when coming to this ruling?
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (9) | Disagree (1)

What on earth are the ASA on? They weren't supposed to release this ruling until another 2 days and 2 months had gone by!
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (6) | Disagree (1)

Sorry to get on my high horse here, but I do think it pertinent to the discussion.

Does the ASA think that it is the lack of helmets that is dangerous, or cycling itself? Are the ASA aware that it is far more likely to injure one's head as a pedestrian, so therefore all adverts showing pedestrians without helmets must be withdrawn forthwith?
Steve, Merseyside (again)

Agree (14) | Disagree (1)

Ah, highway code - nowhere within it does it say 'you must wear a helmet.'
Steve, Merseyside

Agree (13) | Disagree (0)

Tying in with another current news story, this everyday scenario highlights the drawbacks of a driverless car - how would it deal with this? Would it 'think' in accordance with the message of the ad?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

A curious ruling by the ASA, which is in sharp contrast to their approach in a previous RSGB story:
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (7) | Disagree (2)

The Highway Code, whilst not wholly a legal regulation, has the status of 'best practice'. It doesn't have to be proved correct. If you object, you have to prove it incorrect.
Martin, Surrey

Agree (3) | Disagree (7)

Petty or what? Whoever the five complainants were, perhaps they could have been consistent and also highlighted the car driver taking his eyes off the road to admire the female cyclist whilst overtaking her, or not indicating. The ad is designed to promote good attitudes amongst drivers towards cyclists and in that sense it is effective.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (17) | Disagree (1)

Did the ASA provide any scientific evidence on the efficacy of helmet use to back up their ruling? Or are they just jerking their knees because they know absolutely nothing about the subject matter?
Steve, Merseyside

Agree (17) | Disagree (3)