29 Jan 2014

The Advertising Standards Authority says riding bikes in the correct position is 'socially irresponsible'

There's nothing better than a silly ruling on helmets and road positioning to set cycle activists ablaze.

This time, rather than a petrol-headed journalist like Jeremy Clarkson it's the Advertising Standards Agency ruling on an advert by The Niceway Code on behalf of the Scottish government.

Five complaints were received, centred on a segment which starts around 34 seconds into the advert, showing a woman cycling without a helmet, correctly positioned in the road, being overtaken safely by a car. Horror of horrors, the rider was wearing normal clothes too.

As you probably know, riding without a helmet is perfectly legal and riding a metre out from the kerb is recommended for safety. Overtaking at this distance is also recommended, though official guidance says 'a least half a car's width'. Riding in normal clothes in perfect lighting conditions is something which is totally normal for people who just ride a bike to get from A to B.

Sadly, the ASA's adjudication thinks otherwise:

 "However, under the Highway Code it was recommended as good practise for cyclists to wear helmets. 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 whilst 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."
 and further demands that
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told Cycling Scotland that any future ads featuring cyclists should be shown wearing helmets and placed in the most suitable cycling position.

The ASA's ruling seems completely out of line and exposes cyclists to further abuse from other road users who, based on this judgement, could feel that people riding without helmets are doing so illegally, cars should overtake without moving into the other lane, people riding in the correct place on the road are mistaken and people riding without a full complement of hi-viz gear or cycling clothes in broad daylight are dangerous.

Cycling Scotland today said
“We are disappointed with the adjudication of the ASA Council and the statement that future ads should always feature cyclists wearing helmets. Our guidance on the issue of helmets and safety attire for adults on bicycles mirrors the legal requirements set out for cyclists in the Highway Code.   There is a broad spectrum of research and opinion across the road safety and health communities when it comes to issues relating to helmet use and the ad reflected this diversity by showing cyclists both with and without helmets.
“The advert was produced in close consultation with an experienced cycle training instructor who carefully considered the use of road positioning and safety attire required for cycling in the daytime.  The road positioning in the advert complies with the National Standard for cycle training, which is referenced within the Highway Code.  The driver of the car in the advert also follows the Highway Code, which states that vulnerable road users, such as those on a bicycle, should be given at least as much space as you would give a car when overtaking. This highlights the key message of the advert and reinforces the need for drivers to give those travelling by bike the correct amount of road space when overtaking.
and  Cycle Trainer David Dansky, a representative of The Association Of Bikeablility Schemes said

"A core principle of the National Standard guidance is about riding in a position where a cyclist is most likely to be seen by drivers. This advice from [the ASA] contradicts the Department for Transports own guidelines which state: 1 (Riders must) understand where to ride on roads being used: Trainees must understand the primary and secondary positions. Trainees must position themselves where they can be seen and should not cycle in the gutter. Where there is little other traffic and/or there is plenty of room to be overtaken they may ride in the secondary position. Where the road is narrow and two-way traffic would make it hazardous for the trainee to be overtaken by a following vehicle they must be observed to ride in the primary position.
"If the trainee is riding at the speed of other traffic then they should do so in the primary position.
"If they ASA wish to issue guidance regarding how to reduce risk while cycling we would suggest that the ASA consult the National Standard for cycle training. We are happy to offer people within the ASA a cycle training session to explore these points in more detail with a view to the ASA offering better advice about cycling safety."

The CTC says 

CTC is deeply concerned at the effect such a ruling could have on the future popularity of cycling, by increasing public fears that cycling is more 'dangerous' than it really is.  You are in fact less likely to be killed in a mile of cycling than a mile of walking (DfT Reported Road Casualties Great Britain, table RAS30070).

Bluntly put, the adjudication is dangerous to cyclists.

Unfortunately  the ASA is not covered by the Freedom Of Information Act so it's difficult to request the guidance they received on rulings on rider position, overtaking and clothing,which would be interesting to read.

You can sign an online petition here and read about how to make a complaint here.

and you can read CTC's full comment here

The press is full of the story today- BBC and bikebiz.com have stories. Bikebiz has a wealth of supporting information.


Mike1727 said...

Adjudication has now been suspended pendin review following protests. This is apparently quite a rare occurrence. .

Mike1727 said...

Adjudication has now been suspended pendin review following protests. This is apparently quite a rare occurrence. .

rona471 said...

Cyclist is correctly positioned - take a look at those potholes just at the end of the video.