A SCOTTISH Government road safety advert has been banned for being “socially irresponsible” because it showed a cyclist riding without a helmet and “too far” from the kerb.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said today the TV advert undermined the Highway Code’s recommendation that cyclists wore helmets.
The ASA said the cyclist was also shown riding in the middle of the lane and a car overtaking her “almost had to enter the right lane of traffic”.
The advert, by Scottish Government-funded body Cycling Scotland, and captioned “Safer Scotland. Scottish Government”, was aimed at encouraging drivers to take as much care around cyclists as horses.
However, in a decision which sparked outrage from cycle groups, the ASA ruled: “The ad was socially irresponsible and likely to condone or encourage behaviour prejudicial to health and safety.”
Complaints upheld despite precedent
The authority upheld five complaints that claimed the advert 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 kerb.”
The ban came despite Cycling Scotland arguing that helmets were not compulsory, and they could deter people from cycling and make drivers less careful.
However, the ASA said its ruling did not mean all cyclists in adverts had to wear helmets, pointing to a 2009 Diet Coke ad in which the singer Duffy cycled from a gig to a supermarket without a helmet.
The ASA said it had been permitted because of the “fantastical nature” of the advert - despite Duffy being shown cycling on roads and through a car park.
Cycling Scotland said it would seek a review of the decision. Chief executive Ian Aitken said: “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.”
Alison Johnstone, co-convener of Holyrood’s cross-party group on cycling and a Lothian Green MSP, said: “This is a ridiculous ruling and is deeply unhelpful in the effort to make cycling an everyday activity. I think the ASA needs to get some perspective.
“Cycle helmets are a personal choice, and their ruling essentially tells cyclists to stick to the kerb when many of us feel safer cycling with plenty of room around us, especially when there are so few dedicated cycle lanes on busy city and town centre streets.”
Brenda Mitchell, of Cycling Law Scotland, said: “We need to create a culture as can be seen in other parts of Europe, where cyclists are given space not because they are wearing a helmet or because they are lit up like a Christmas tree, but because they are seen as vulnerable road users.”
Dr Sara Dorman, a spokeswoman for Pedal on Parliament, which highlights cycle safety to MSPs, said: “We should be working towards a Scotland that feels safe enough so people do not feel the need to wear protection to ride a bike.”
Dave de Feu, spokesman for Spokes, the Lothian cycle campaign, said: “The ASA should tell us why cycling casualties have started to rise again over exactly the same period that helmet wearing has become much more widespread.
“They should also tell us why cycling casualty figures tend to be worse in those developed countries where lots of people use helmets and better where few people use them.”
But Edinburgh cyclist Tom Scott, 35, said: “People really should wear helmets and should not ride in the middle of the road.
“With all the deaths in Scotland and the rest of the country, Cycling Scotland should be ensuring and encouraging helmets are worn as a matter of course.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said: “The Scottish Government encourages the wearing of correctly-fitted helmets. However, the wearing of a helmet when cycling remains a matter of individual choice.”