Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Why a terrible verdict shows how the ASA is wrong

Today's been a bad day for cycling in the UK.

First we had the ruling by the ASA about 5 (yes five) complaints about one of the Nicewaycode adverts, which we all thought had been put to death with a bicycle pump though it's heart to prevent resurrection.

If you haven't read the ruling (surely everyone reading this will have by now) it's here

The advert is below

ASA upheld the compalints about the final scene where where the cyclist is being overtaken by a car.
The car is not over the lines. At the very end of the clip it can be seen that the rider is riding to avoid potholes.

ASA ruled that:

We noted that the cyclist in the final scene was not wearing a helmet or any other safety attire, and appeared to be more than 0.5 metres from the parking lane. We also acknowledged that the cyclist was shown in broad daylight on a fairly large lane without any traffic.
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.

ASA have banned the advert and have imposed the following on Cycling Scotland

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.

A few issues with that ruling

  • Firstly what the feck is a "parking lane" there are no lane markings in the clip other than the central one. Do they mean the pavement?
  • ASA think that no cyclists should be more than 0.5 metres from the edge of the road. That's about 18 inches in old money. Or not much more than the diagonal distance across most laptop screens. 
  • The argument about helmets is legion, and is recommended (not by me btw) but conclusive evidence about their effectiveness is hard to find at best, and they are not designed for protection in vehicle collisions anyway.
If you disgree with the ASA, then please sign this petition or write or email them.

The second blow to cycling was the aquittal of a minibus driver from Dorset who hit and killed a cyclist travelling in the same direction. This was in daylight and the cyclist was wearing a helmet, hivis, and lights. The BBC article is here

Leaving aside the legals, the driver admits that he hit something with his nearside door mirror although he thought he'd clipped a bus stop sign. How close to the kerb was he then?

Although we could never know, and it was certainly NOT the cyclists fault regardless of position, I suggest that if the poor cyclist had been riding further out,contrary to the ASA ruling, then the driver may have seen him and taken action instead of just ploughing on regardless.

The Dorset tale certainly highlights one of the main reasons for not hugging the gutter, and that's vehicles squeezing past given the slightest gap, which is extremely dangerous.

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