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Advertising watchdog's ruling was heavily criticised yesterday, with MPs writing to point out apparent flaws...

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has said it has withdrawn its formal ruling against Cycling Scotland’s ‘See Cyclist. Think Horse’ advert, announced yesterday, “pending the outcome of an Independent Review.

The ASA’s decision, based on the fact that a cyclist depicted in the advert was not wearing a helmet and its assertion that she should have been riding 0.5m from the kerb, attracted widespread condemnation from cycling organisations and ordinary cyclists alike, with more than 3,400 people signing a petition calling for the ban to be overturned.

In a statement issued this morning, the advertising watchdog said:

The ASA has withdrawn its formal ruling against a Cycling Scotland ad pending the outcome of an Independent Review. That followed a request from Cycling Scotland, in which it argued that the ASA’s criticism of the positioning of the cyclist was incorrect. The decision to withdraw was made by the ASA Chief Executive in light of a potential flaw in our ruling. Once the Independent Review process is complete we will publish our decision on our website.

After its decision was made public yesterday, the two MPs who co-chair the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG) wrote to the ASA urging it to reconsider its decision to ban the advert, describing the move as “unreasonable, inconsistent, and dangerous” and pointing out what they saw as flaws in its reasoning.

In their letter which was sent to the ASA’s chief executive Guy Parker and copied to its chairman, Lord Smith of Finsbury, Dr Julian Huppert MP and Ian Austin MP said they were “surprised” to learn of ASA’s adjudication, adding, “It seems to us it is a poor and inconsistent decision, and liable to put people at risk, and we urge you to reconsider it.”

The MPs pointed out that the ASA’s insistence that the one of the cyclists shown in the advert should have been wearing a cycle helmet “is not a requirement of UK law, and the Government has made it clear that they have no intention of making it so.”

They continued: “If the ASA position is that advisory comments in the Highway Code are to be taken as binding, does the ASA intend to ban, for example, adverts depicting pedestrians at night not wearing reflective clothing, as per rule 17?”

Much of the discussion yesterday of the ASA’s ruling surrounded its insistence that the cyclist should be riding no more than 0.5 metres from the “parking lane” or the kerb.

Dr Huppert and Mr Austin said: “We would be grateful if you would confirm what a parking lane is in this context, as it is not a recognised term in the Highway Code.”

The MPs went on: “We would be grateful if you could let us know where the limit of 0.5m from the kerb… comes from. There appears to be no guidance in the Highway Code to that effect, and so the basis for any enforcement of this by the ASA seems obscure. Indeed, forcing cyclists to ride within 50cm of parked cars is actively dangerous, given the risk of injury and death from doors being opened.”

The ASA also noted that a car shown overtaking the cyclist in the advert, which was aimed at showing how much space motorists should give people on bike, “almost had to enter the right lane of traffic.”

The Highway Code itself illustrates Rule 163, which says drivers should give cyclists as much room as they would a car when overtaking a cyclist, with  a picture showing a car that is almost entirely in the right-hand lane.

The APPCG co-chairs asked the ASA: “Would you therefore intend to ban any advert showing a car overtaking another car and going into the right hand lane?”

Cycling Scotland said yesterday that it was planning to appeal the ASA's decision.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

36 comments

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mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 2 years ago
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How bizarre is it that only a couple of months ago I was panning these stupid ads - now here we are defending (at least 30 seconds) of one

Unfortunately what has happened is that the only sensible 30 seconds in the whole thing is the reason some numpty at the ASA decided to ban it

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teaboy [311 posts] 2 years ago
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The general tone of the Nice Way Code campaign was rubbish, but bits of this advert are actually quite good. It's certainly reached more people now because of the ban than it would have if the ASA had just passed it originally.

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notfastenough [3673 posts] 2 years ago
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We need this to make it into the mainstream media, so that if/when the ASA concedes it's mistakes, the message gets out there regarding how much space to leave when passing.

Good to know that the tidal wave of complaints yesterday is having an effect.

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mrmo [2067 posts] 2 years ago
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So can we know have car adverts banned which do show illegal and dangerous behaviour that flouts the highway code!

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hairyairey [297 posts] 2 years ago
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Excellent - a climbdown - hope they were wearing a helmet before they got off...  21

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hairyairey [297 posts] 2 years ago
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notfastenough - the BBC have reported it which is how I knew to come here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-25960322

Incidentally, I usually have oats for breakfast...

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bikebot [1804 posts] 2 years ago
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An independent review of an independent regulator. Is there anyone in this sorry episode that's actually accountable?

Considering that their ruling actively undermined a safety campaign, an apology would have been nice as well.

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congokid [262 posts] 2 years ago
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bikebot wrote:

An independent review of an independent regulator. Is there anyone in this sorry episode that's actually accountable? Considering that their ruling actively undermined a safety campaign, an apology would have been nice as well.

It will probably be blamed on some junior twonk 'making a decision under minimal supervision' as quoted from a current ASA job advert for a complaints executive.

ASA's arse well and truly slapped. Pressure ought to be maintained pending a full and grovelling apology. It's worrying that unaccountable organisations such as this presume to make uninformed and counter-productive pronouncements to suit their own agendas about what's safe and what's allowed on areas about which they clearly know nothing.

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jollygoodvelo [1398 posts] 2 years ago
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congokid wrote:
bikebot wrote:

An independent review of an independent regulator. Is there anyone in this sorry episode that's actually accountable? Considering that their ruling actively undermined a safety campaign, an apology would have been nice as well.

It will probably be blamed on some junior twonk 'making a decision under minimal supervision' as quoted from a current ASA job advert for a complaints executive.

ASA's arse well and truly slapped. Pressure ought to be maintained pending a full and grovelling apology. It's worrying that unaccountable organisations such as this presume to make uninformed and counter-productive pronouncements to suit their own agendas about what's safe and what's allowed on areas about which they clearly know nothing.

Now, now... no need to be excessive, it's not a witch-hunt. Someone took a decision that they thought was right at the time, based on whatever information they chose to use.

Rabid hordes of Internet cyclists have illustrated their mistake and educated them, and I'm pleased to see ASA as a body has changed its position.

Hopefully as cycling becomes more mainstream, the incidence of such mistakes will reduce.

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Paul_C [424 posts] 2 years ago
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hairyairey wrote:

notfastenough - the BBC have reported it which is how I knew to come here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-25960322

but it still can't be shown in it's current form, which in my book means it's still banned

From your linked article:

"In a clarification, the authority stressed the advert could still not be broadcast in its current form."

twonks...

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hairyairey [297 posts] 2 years ago
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Oh I missed that! Best keep an eye on that then probably a proper u-turn won't get reported

ironically of course with the advent of this new internet thingy (it'll never take off  4 ) they can't really ban the advert anyway people will just watch it online.

Time to have my saddle changed...

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hairyairey [297 posts] 2 years ago
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"Rabid hordes of Internet cyclists" - great description of the commenters on this site (self included)!

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Sniffer [272 posts] 2 years ago
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The campaign, for what is worth, ended some time ago. I doubt there were any plans to show it again.

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northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
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Paul_C wrote:
hairyairey wrote:

notfastenough - the BBC have reported it which is how I knew to come here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-25960322

but it still can't be shown in it's current form, which in my book means it's still banned

From your linked article:

"In a clarification, the authority stressed the advert could still not be broadcast in its current form."

twonks...

This, we haven't won yet...

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congokid [262 posts] 2 years ago
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Gizmo_ wrote:

Now, now... no need to be excessive...I'm pleased to see ASA as a body has changed its position.

Now, now...no need to be premature.

There's no evidence that the ASA has changed its position on anything. All that's happened is it has withdrawn its decision - for the moment:

the ASA’s criticism of the positioning of the cyclist was incorrect. The decision to withdraw was made by the ASA Chief Executive in light of a potential flaw in our ruling. Once the Independent Review process is complete we will publish our decision on our website.

ASA mentions the positioning of the cyclist in the advert, nothing else, and that's probably only because it has realised it hasn't a leg to stand on given the longstanding advice in the Highway Code and that it had completely missed the point of the original advert. I expect it will re-publish the decision with everything else intact and the ban remaining in place.

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vbvb [577 posts] 2 years ago
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If the decision was "withdrawn, pending an appeal", this new decision ought to be a new first decision, not an appeal decision. Relevant if they ban it again!

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Some Fella [890 posts] 2 years ago
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The current Coke Zero ad has a group of fixie hipsters doing fixie hipster Coke zero type of stuff - all helmetless.
Still being shown last night - i suppose the ruling was meant for any new adverts coming through.
Do the ASA cover print ads too? - i notice that Cipollini advertises his own bikes in print ads and on films doing all kinds of crazy shit riding without a helmet.

http://inrng.com/2012/08/cipollini-saves-the-day/

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Some Fella [890 posts] 2 years ago
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Actually - on reflection i would like to see those Cipollini ads banned.
Not on dubious 'safety' grounds but on the grounds of good taste.

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oozaveared [936 posts] 2 years ago
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mad_scot_rider wrote:

How bizarre is it that only a couple of months ago I was panning these stupid ads - now here we are defending (at least 30 seconds) of one

Unfortunately what has happened is that the only sensible 30 seconds in the whole thing is the reason some numpty at the ASA decided to ban it

That's as it may be and Nice Way may be controversial but I think we all need to stick together when organisations that are completely ignorant of matters to do with cycle safety and (in this case I feel) have other agendas inimical to cycle safety, stick they oar in.

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congokid [262 posts] 2 years ago
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As if further evidence of the ASA's intransigence were needed, here is an extract of a presumably generic email sent out by the ASA's Matt Wilson in response to direct emails concerning the ban (in this case from the DarkerSide blog author):

[The ASA are given scope] to apply the Codes, to ads, beyond what is required in law if we consider that an ad is depicting a bahaviour [sic, I assume] or activity that is potentially harmful or irresponsible

. . . There are lots of things that are not permitted to be shown in adverts that are perfectly acceptable and legal in real life – for example it is considered irresponsible to show someone buying a repeat round of drinks in an alcohol ad.

As blogger Rob says: "There you have it. A statement from the ASA that riding a bike in the safest road position; the position required by the Highway Code, taught in every training course I know, and a key part of the UK’s current vehicular approach to cycling, is comparable to encouraging intoxication."

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arowland [146 posts] 2 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

So can we now have car adverts banned which do show illegal and dangerous behaviour that flouts the highway code?

Hey, only 5 people have to complain! I think I am going to start watching car adverts. That will be a new thing.  3

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FluffyKittenofT... [1174 posts] 2 years ago
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I hadn't noticed the reference to the 'parking lane'. Wonder who at the ASA invented that concept? They seem to be developing their own private highway code over there!

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FluffyKittenofT... [1174 posts] 2 years ago
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Some Fella wrote:

The current Coke Zero ad has a group of fixie hipsters doing fixie hipster Coke zero type of stuff - all helmetless.
Still being shown last night - i suppose the ruling was meant for any new adverts coming through.
Do the ASA cover print ads too? - i notice that Cipollini advertises his own bikes in print ads and on films doing all kinds of crazy shit riding without a helmet.

http://inrng.com/2012/08/cipollini-saves-the-day/

Maybe the Coke ad is exempt because its for a very large and powerful corporation? Mind you, I'd look favourably on any proposal to ban the promotion of fixie hipsters!

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FluffyKittenofT... [1174 posts] 2 years ago
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The whole business does illustrate the ignorance that is out there amongst drivers about cycling and how to overtake in particular.

Presumably this decision was made by someone (low-ranking?) in the ASA who drives, and believes, amongst other things, that the highway code recognises such a thing as 'the parking lane', that cyclists should stay in the gutter (or the door-zone) at all times, and that its actually _wrong_ to give a cyclist decent clearance when overtaking if it means 'nearly crossing the dividing line'.

And as such, I think it nicely illustrates the flaw in the Niceway approach - which is assuming there are mild misunderstandings are 'on both sides'. Instead it reveals how wrong-headed are the beliefs of one side in particular.

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oozaveared [936 posts] 2 years ago
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FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

I hadn't noticed the reference to the 'parking lane'. Wonder who at the ASA invented that concept? They seem to be developing their own private highway code over there!

I have mentioned this before but there is abroad a concept that the Highway Code is something that each individual can tailor to suit their needs and then quote with authority to make any case they wish to.

My most laugh out loud one was a senior type middle aged lady in a big 4x4 who over took me after being delayed for maybe 10 seconds. No aggro. A way up the road she pulled over and stopped. Got out and stood behind her vehicle with her arms crossed waiting for me. I stopped of course as we were the only people on a back lane in Surrey.

"Now young man" she began. I am 52 mind and have grown up kids. "The white line at the side of the road is there for a purpose, can you tell me what that purpose is?" says she in her best school marm voice.

"Well" I said "it just marks the edge of the highway. It's called an edge line."

"No, it's the cycling line.." she said very dismissively. "..cyclists must stay on that line and not get in the way of traffic."

I didn't even bother arguing. I just said thankyou waited until she left and carried on.

I take solace that the driving test is becoming a bit more stringent (it is still designed that most people can pass it) but at least my son had to do more than wander down the Post Office and buy a licennce which I suspect was the case for her. My father BTW was issued with a full driving licence by the Army. He was 19 and a Corporal. It was 1949. An order came from Horseguards that all NCOs were to have driving licences. It didn't say they should be taught to drive just that they should have licences. The Army is very efficient that way. They didn't gold plate anything by adding their own interpretation of the general order. It ordered they had licences. They issued licences. He had never driven a motor vehicle before.

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Matt eaton [742 posts] 2 years ago
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Does anyone remenber the print advert for milk in the States with Mat Hoffman doing a backflip liddless with a milky moustache?

Funny thing is that Mat wanted to wear a helmet but the milk people said it spoilt the shot. A bit of a side note to this case, and obviously nothing to do with the ASA but the ad was certainly used.

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BennyHop [6 posts] 2 years ago
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Have we all missed the point? Two MPs have got off their bottoms and done something useful for the cycling community. Now just gotta get the batty old Lords to see some sense...

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burtthebike [211 posts] 2 years ago
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Isn't this the same bunch of cowboys who found CTC ads that pointed out that not riding a bike was more dangerous than not riding one (or something similar) to have offended some arcane rule or other?

And the same bunch who appear unable to stop BHIT making blatantly wrong claims about cycle helmets?

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Sara_H [58 posts] 2 years ago
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Gizmo_ wrote:

Now, now... no need to be excessive, it's not a witch-hunt. Someone took a decision that they thought was right at the time, based on whatever information they chose to use.

Rabid hordes of Internet cyclists have illustrated their mistake and educated them, and I'm pleased to see ASA as a body has changed its position.

Hopefully as cycling becomes more mainstream, the incidence of such mistakes will reduce.

My concern is that they didn't have any 'information' available to he. They made this decision based on their own ill informed views.

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OldRidgeback [2590 posts] 2 years ago
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hairyairey wrote:

"Rabid hordes of Internet cyclists" - great description of the commenters on this site (self included)!

Yep, we must be hydrophobic or summat. Anyone got any WD40?
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