Cycling Ad Banned For Being "Irresponsible"

A television ad promoting safe cycling has been banned for showing a rider without a helmet pedalling along the middle of a road.

The ad, part of a campaign by Cycling Scotland, said in a voiceover: ``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.'' 

But five viewers complained that the ad was irresponsible and harmful because it showed a cyclist without a helmet or any other safety attire riding down the middle of the road. 

Cycling Scotland told the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that wearing a cycling helmet was not a legal requirement in Scotland but a personal choice for the individual - a fact it considered was reflected in the ad with footage of various cyclists both with and without helmets. 

Cycling Scotland also referred to its helmet policy, which discussed the possible undesired outcomes of wearing helmets, including limiting uptake of cycling and ``influencing a driver's behaviour to be less careful when interacting on the road''. 

In relation to the cyclist's position on the road, Cycling Scotland said 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. 

It told the ASA the shoot for the advert was supervised by one of its most experienced cycling instructors. 

The ASA acknowledged the ad was primarily aiming to encourage motorists to take care when driving near cyclists. 

But it noted that the cyclist in the final scene was not wearing a helmet or any other safety attire and appeared to be more than half a metre from the parking lane. 

It said: ``We understood that UK law did not require cyclists to wear helmets or cycle at least 0.5 metres from the kerb. However, under the Highway Code it was recommended as good practice 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.'' 

It ruled that the ad must not be broadcast again in its current form and added: ``We told Cycling Scotland that any future ads featuring cyclists should be shown wearing helmets and placed in the most suitable cycling position.'' 

Cycling Scotland chief executive Ian Aitken 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. 

``Cycling Scotland fully intends to pursue the ASA Council's independent review process open to us.'' 

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian and co-convener of Holyrood's cross-party group on cycling, 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.''