ASA withdraws ban on Cycling Scotland advert pending "independent review"

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

by Simon_MacMichael   January 30, 2014  

Nice Way Code screenshot

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has said it has withdrawn its formal ruling against Cycling Scotland’s ‘See Cyclist.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The ASA has withdrawn its formal ruling against a Cycling Scotland ad pending the outcome of an Independent Review.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.

36 user comments

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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.

posted by bikebot [131 posts]
30th January 2014 - 12:03

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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.

posted by congokid [81 posts]
30th January 2014 - 12:59

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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.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [642 posts]
30th January 2014 - 13:10

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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...

posted by Paul_C [115 posts]
30th January 2014 - 13:31

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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 Big Grin ) they can't really ban the advert anyway people will just watch it online.

Time to have my saddle changed...

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [275 posts]
30th January 2014 - 13:37

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

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [275 posts]
30th January 2014 - 13:38

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The campaign, for what is worth, ended some time ago. I doubt there were any plans to show it again.

Ride more, ride better

posted by Sniffer [119 posts]
30th January 2014 - 13:43

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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...

posted by northstar [936 posts]
30th January 2014 - 13:44

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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.

posted by congokid [81 posts]
30th January 2014 - 13:47

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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!

posted by vbvb [166 posts]
30th January 2014 - 14:07

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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/

posted by Some Fella [619 posts]
30th January 2014 - 14:20

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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.

posted by Some Fella [619 posts]
30th January 2014 - 14:31

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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.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [363 posts]
30th January 2014 - 14:46

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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."

posted by congokid [81 posts]
30th January 2014 - 16:34

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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. Wink

posted by arowland [70 posts]
30th January 2014 - 16:34

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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!

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [501 posts]
30th January 2014 - 18:01

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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!

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [501 posts]
30th January 2014 - 18:03

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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.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [501 posts]
30th January 2014 - 18:16

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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.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [363 posts]
30th January 2014 - 18:44

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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.

posted by Matt eaton [0 posts]
30th January 2014 - 19:28

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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...

posted by BennyHop [6 posts]
30th January 2014 - 19:42

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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?

burtthebike

posted by burtthebike [59 posts]
30th January 2014 - 20:06

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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.

posted by Sara_H [32 posts]
30th January 2014 - 20:41

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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?
Smile

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1941 posts]
31st January 2014 - 11:30

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There area few points to make here:
1. The good news: There has been an almighty bout of fully justified indignation from the more civilised members of British society: bloggers, a massive number of commenters on blogs, a great petition, letters directly to ASA from the likes of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, cycling organisations etc. It is good to see so many people being – justifiably – steamed up, and t has certainly had an effect.
2. But don’t get too excited: We don’t know what the procedure of the “independent” review will be. It’s going to be difficult for the ASA to justify it’s take on positioning, but it may repeat it’s stuff about helmets. The struggle needs to continue here.
3. The Road Danger Reduction Forum and some others have raised the issue of the ASA’s views on car advertising and indeed representations of motor traffic. If it gets worried about rule and law breaking in advertisements, the fact is that rule and law breaking occurs with typical driving: is that going to be addressed as a problem?
4. The ASA is unlikely to be rigorous of car advertising because it is a body which comes from the advertising industry. Does anybody think it is going to get really tough with a principal source of its economic activity?
5. A big problem with the ASA is that when it does censure advertisers, all it does is tell people not to do it again. So advertising of motoring is never going to be really policed. A classic case of what happens when a powerful industry self-regulates. Having said that, when it comes to images of cyclists, if the censure over helmets goes through, we can expect marketing and communications people who have put forward everyday images of cyclists riding in normal clothes to be scared off. Look at the images advertising the next London Bike Show – that’s the only kind of thing we will have.
So this episode is not over and the problem has not gone away.

So, do watch this space. And if you see anything which is associated with rule breaking driving in an advertisement, do complain to the ASA. You can let the CTC know about results.

Dr Robert Davis, Chair RDRF

posted by ChairRDRF [62 posts]
31st January 2014 - 12:51

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As others have noted, the ASA has only suspended its ruling pending a review. Moreover their wording suggests that they are concerned about a possible flaw in the part of their ruling which relates to the cyclist's road positioning - not the part relating to the cyclist's non-use of a helmet.

See full background.

CTC is concerned that the ASA may be looking to ‘save face’ by backing down on the cyclist's road-positioning (acknowledging that it is in line with Highway Code Rule 163), while sticking to their guns on helmets, citing the Highway Code Rule 59 in their defence.

If we end up with the ASA imposing de facto censorship of helmet-free cycling on TV, that would be an appalling blow to the promotion of cycling as a safe, enjoyable, aspirational and (above all) perfectly normal way for people of all ages and backgrounds to get around for day-to-day journeys or for leisure.

CTC has therefore invited people to submit suggestions of other adverts showing examples of
• Deeply ‘irresponsible’ cycling (e.g. cycling without helmets) - https://www.ctc.org.uk/blog/chris-peck/which-ads-are-now-banned-your-exa...
• Equally ‘irresponsible’ walking (e.g. people walking on the streets at night without reflective clothing, children out on the streets on their own, not crossing the road carefully in accordance with the Green Cross Code) - https://www.ctc.org.uk/blog/roger-geffen/now-send-us-your-irresponsible-... and
• Ads showing genuinely irresponsible driving - https://www.ctc.org.uk/blog/chris-peck/which-car-ads-show-breaches-of-hi...

We’ve already had some great examples – e.g. the famous Hovis adverts of the 1970s really ought to be banned, according to the ASA’s ‘logic’. Please keep them coming!

There is of course a serious point to this. If the ASA can ban helmet-free cycling on the grounds that it’s covered by the Highway Code, shouldn’t they also be banning any advert showing someone walking at night without reflective gear on exactly the same grounds? And how come so many advertisers get away with showing really irresponsible driving?

[N.B. The answer to this last question is that advertisers persistently use the excuse that their ads are set in purely “fantastical” settings. In other words, nobody could possibly mistake their fantasy car-adverts for the congestion, pollution and danger of real-world street-scenes!]

Roger Geffen
Campaigns & Policy Director, CTC

posted by Roger Geffen [28 posts]
31st January 2014 - 21:19

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How f.........g pathetic. If the ASA is concerned about health and safety and all that it would ban all car ads (never any other traffic on the road etc) as it is cars that are dangerous. These ads portray driving as completely carefree and certainly
no mention of the massive number of deaths,injuries and illnesses it causes throughout the world to non drivers and drivers alike. I don't see the ASA and their mates doing anything to upset the boat here. Sometimes I wonder what kind of country we live in when stupidity like this comes along.

posted by pga [4 posts]
1st February 2014 - 1:35

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I'm bloody glad I live in Australia where I can say what I bloody well like, bloody idiots.

CJStevens

posted by CJSTEVENS1955 [24 posts]
1st February 2014 - 14:34

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The ban is very much still in place. Belated E-mail response from the ASA (well they have been busy these last few days)

Dear Andrew

I’m sorry about the delay in responding to you.

The ban remains in place pending the outcome of the review. The ASA Chief Executive has the powers to withdraw the ruling – removing it from the public record/publicity – but he can’t overturn ASA Council’s decision. The Independent Review process will give the advertisers the platform to challenge Council’s findings.

Kind regards

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson
Press Officer

I am only as insane as the insanity around me (Jens Voigt)

posted by alronald [58 posts]
3rd February 2014 - 18:45

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Support from an surprising, petrol powered source, Motorcycle Action Group (source. Ah heck, they got two wheels, most of them anyway. Some of them got beards that would put an Audaxer to shame. And they like beer.

Quote:
Lembit Öpik, the Motorcycle Action Group’s (MAG) Director of Communications & Public Affairs, has spoken out against the implied imposition of a mandatory helmet law for cyclists.The threat has arisen as a result of the Advertising Standards Agency’s (ASA) directive to Cycling Scotland, requiring them to feature cyclists wearing helmets, and refusing to authorise a television advertisement which showed a rider without a helmet – claiming that to do so would be ‘socially irresponsible.’

Lembit says ‘in 1973, British motorcyclists suffered a hammer blow to their liberty with the introduction of a mandatory helmet law.Over the last four decades we have never wavered from our principled position of opposing this authoritarian regulation.It’s not because we’re against safety; rather it’s because we’re pro-choice.At the heart of any truly free society, citizens have the right to make personal decisions about their welfare and the level of risk they’re willing to entertain.No government has the moral authority to forcibly impose its opinion about what’s best for citizens, because such a move is counter to the very freedoms which democracy exists to uphold.As such, we offer our full support to Britain’s cyclists in opposing the mandatory wearing of helmets.This is a symbolic test of the liberty.A defeat on this would be a catastrophic failure of politicians to respect the personal liberty of the people.’

MAG Chairman John Mitchell adds ‘I have instructed MAG’s Reps to provide whatever support is necessary to assist the British cycling community to successfully resist this ominous legislative menace.The ASA has effectively used its position to censor Cycling Scotland’s right to illustrate cyclists’ liberty to ride without a helmet.They have evidently not got the right to veto the portrayal of a legal activity, but the precedent is extremely dangerous.Their action has reignited an issue which has been quietly smouldering for some time as far as motorcyclists are concerned.Make no mistake, we’re ready, willing and able to take this issue to the politicians, and I have no doubt that this debate will now extend to bikers as well as cyclists.The Cycle Touring Club, which represents cyclists is firmly against compulsory helmet use, as it feels that mandatory helmet use will reduce the numbers of those people who take up cycling. What unites us all is our belief in personal choice.The very last thing elected politicians who ignore this can expect is an easy ride.’

posted by Argos74 [208 posts]
4th February 2014 - 1:06

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