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Watchdog overturns its finding on Cycling Scotland ad thanks to CTC's evidence

Chris Peck's picture
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The original finding, issued in January, upheld a complaint calling for helmets to be worn in adverts involving cyclists. Thanks to work by Cycling Scotland and CTC, that finding has now been reversed.
The original offending image, now deemed acceptable
The original offending image, now deemed acceptable

Cycling Scotland's ad campaign that sought to improve overtaking of cyclists was found by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to have breached the Broadcast Code of Advertising in January 2014.

The ASA's original decision was based on the fact that a cyclist in the video was shown not wearing a helmet, and taking a position away from the kerb to avoid a badly surfaced road. Both of these situations reflect reality and are legal.

CTC and many others immediately took to Twitter to criticise the ASA's decision.

Julian Huppert MP and Ian Austin MP, chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, wrote to the Chief Executive of the ASA to express their concern.

Cycling Scotland was granted leave to appeal and the finding was withdrawn while an investigation took place. Having received evidence from Cycling Scotland and a report on helmets from CTC, the ASA have now declared that the advert did not breach their code and have withdrawn their objection.

In their statement the ASA say: "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."

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. 

ASA adjudication

The ASA, "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."

CTC's Policy Coordinator Chris Peck said, "It's great news that the ASA have listened to cycling groups and the many cyclists out there who expressed their concern about the original finding. Helmets aren't compulsory in the UK, and we will fight to prevent them becoming so, including any creeping coercion that suggests that unhelmeted cyclists are somehow 'irresponsible'."

The advert which triggered the complaints - now not upheld - is no longer available to view.

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barogerl's picture

Whilst I aplaud the overturning of the ban on unhelmeted cyclist in adverts, why does the CTC persist in using adverts showing helmeted riders. A prime example of this is in last issueof the club magazine for the CTC rides. Why iniur magazine does the hierachy persist in doing what it says it does not agree with.

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