ASA overturns ruling on Cycling Scotland ad

12.00 | 30 June 2014 | | 1 comment

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has reversed its earlier ruling that a TV ad produced by Cycling Scotland should not be shown.

The ASA originally ruled that the ad should not be shown 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 in January 2014 withdrew its "potentially flawed" ruling while an independent review took place.

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 said 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 revised assessment, the ASA says the complaint is now ‘not upheld’.

The ASA statement reads as follows: “We noted that the final shot of the ad showed a young woman cycling down the road without wearing a helmet, and appeared to be located in the centre of the lane.

“We acknowledged Cycling Scotland’s explanation regarding why the cyclist featured in the final scene of the ad was placed in the primary position and that this was an appropriate position to depict the cyclist in given the specific road conditions.

“We identified that the cyclist was shown in broad daylight and positioned on the centre of a fairly large lane, without any traffic and was clearly visible. Furthermore, we noted that there was a large gap between her and the car which overtook her.

“For those reasons, we considered that the cyclist had been placed in a suitable cycling position.

“We understood that the Highway Code recommends that helmets ‘should’ be worn which conform to current regulations, fit correctly and are securely fastened. However, we acknowledged that it was not a UK legal requirement for cyclists to wear helmets, but instead was a decision they could make at their own discretion.

“We noted Cycling Scotland’s and Clearcast’s point that this was reflected in the ad by showing various cyclists with and without helmets.

“We acknowledged Cycling Scotland’s reference to the National Cycling Charity (CTC) report, which discussed the possible harmful outcomes of wearing cycling helmets, including evidence that some drivers perceive cyclists wearing helmets to be less vulnerable road users and that this can influence driver behaviours to be less cautious around cyclists.

“We agreed that the ad was primarily targeted at motorists with the aim of raising awareness of the different kinds of real life scenarios in which they may encounter cyclists on the road. Following this, we noted Clearcast had stated that the ad featured a realistic situation, in that not all cyclists wore helmets and that the ad illustrated that the same care should be given to all cyclists, whether or not they wore a helmet.

“Therefore, we concluded that because it was not a UK legal requirement for cyclists to wear helmets and because the ad depicted a range of real life situations in which motorists may encounter cyclists on the road for the purposes of educating them about the risks to cyclists posed by poor driving behaviours we concluded that the ad was not socially irresponsible and likely to condone or encourage behaviour prejudicial to health and safety.”


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    I think it has proved hard enough in my personal opinion to encourage road users to see a cyclist or motorcyclist as a person not an impersonal generic object. But as for a horse, that’s really challenging.

    Gareth, Surrey
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