ASA overturns ban on ad showing cyclist without helmet

Cycling Scotland successfully appeals January decision as ad watchdog accepts its arguments

by Simon_MacMichael   June 25, 2014  

Nice Way Code screenshot

A ban on an advert that showed a cyclist riding without a helmet has been overturned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) following an appeal by Cycling Scotland, which produced the clip as part of a campaign urging drivers to give cyclists more room when overtaking.

Five people had complained about the advert, which was aired last year as part of Cycling Scotland's Nice Way Code campaign and urged drivers to "See Cyclist. Think Horse."

It included a scene depicting a woman riding in the middle of the lane. Complaints included that she was not wearing a helmet or other safety equipment, and that she should have been riding close to the kerb.

The ASA banned the advert in January, saying it broke rules on relating to “social responsibility” and “harm and offence,” and said that people riding bikes in TV adverts must be shown wearing helmets and should ride no more than 0.5 metres from the kerb.

In its ruling on the appeal published today, the advertising watchdog accepted that neither wearing a helmet nor riding 0.5 metres from the kerb are legal requirements, and it also agreed that given the road conditions, the cyclist was correctly positioned.

The ruling said: “We acknowledged Cycling Scotland's 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.

The ASA also agreed that “the ad featured a realistic situation, in that not all cyclists wore helmets,” and that it “illustrated that the same care should be given to all cyclists, whether or not they wore a helmet.”

It added: “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.”

Cycling Scotland’s chief executive, Ian Aitken, welcomed today’s decision.

He said: “The advert shows drivers the correct amount of space to give when overtaking someone who is cycling.  People cycle for a variety of reasons, and, as such, drivers will encounter people cycling in a range of clothing styles, some with and some without a helmet. 

“So, regardless the reason why someone is cycling, or what they are wearing while doing so, drivers need to slow down and give as much space as they would a car when overtaking a person on a bike.

“The ASA adjudication has led to a constructive debate on the correct amount road space to give those who are cycling, as well as highlighting suitable road position for those traveling by bike. We are pleased that the final adjudication has confirmed the advert gives the correct guidance to people driving and cycling.”

He added: “Cycling Scotland would also like to thank the huge groundswell of support throughout the process, notably those who highlighted relevant information or research that could further support the aims of the messaging of the advert as well as partner organisations and groups who helped feed into our response.”

Among those organsations it thanked was national cyclists' charity CTC, whose policy co-ordinator 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'."

17 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Phew! Thank goodness for that! Good for Cycling Scotland for working against this nonsense.

posted by P3t3 [51 posts]
25th June 2014 - 12:24

91 Likes

agree, we should be able to show it how it is.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2809 posts]
25th June 2014 - 12:53

56 Likes

stumps wrote:
agree, we should be able to show it how it is.

Yep, now all they need to do is add some idiot driving whilst texting and eating a boots meal deal, followed by a white van cutting across her turning left.

Though saying that a cyclist had to avoid riding into my bonnet at a junction as he was to busy talking on his mobile to ride in a straight line. Abuse given.

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [346 posts]
25th June 2014 - 13:00

51 Likes

It was quick enough to ban it, yet this overturn takes ages to impart.

posted by Wolfshade [103 posts]
25th June 2014 - 13:08

51 Likes

The appeals process is independent of the ASA, and all submissions would need to have time to be made and considered. A successful appeal is actually quite rare, so it's good to see it working in this case. In the end it will have been beneficial to cycling, as the (usually excellent) ASA staff and council will now be much more familiar with cycling safety issues. Good result all around.

posted by tomturcan [38 posts]
25th June 2014 - 13:37

50 Likes

Quote:
The ASA adjudication has led to a constructive debate on the correct amount road space to give those who are cycling, as well as highlighting suitable road position for those traveling by bike. We are pleased that the final adjudication has confirmed the advert gives the correct guidance to people driving and cycling.

I wasn't informed that it was the Advertising Standards Authority job to start a debate about how much or how little space drivers give me when I am on my bikes - I thought it was quite clear that I can ride in the middle of the lane - that if I want I do not have to wear a helmet and other vehicles, trying to overtake me should cross over the lines in the center of the road as intended by Rule 163 and none of that is open to debate. period

posted by leqin [120 posts]
25th June 2014 - 14:40

64 Likes

Leqin: the ASA has jurisdiction only over the advertising itself (message, presentation etc) rather than the activity portrayed in the advertising.

posted by tomturcan [38 posts]
25th June 2014 - 15:04

27 Likes

The ASA wrote:
"..should ride no more than 0.5 metres from the kerb."

Yeah good luck with that...

BfG6GrnCUAE_Kjq.jpg

posted by GrahamSt [98 posts]
25th June 2014 - 15:20

47 Likes

I cant help noticing that the 'new' Halfords ad is the same as last year but with all the non helmeted riders edited out.
Creeping compulsion

posted by Some Fella [784 posts]
25th June 2014 - 16:27

58 Likes

Good result

posted by Duncann [76 posts]
25th June 2014 - 17:32

42 Likes

A result.

I suggest that this wouldn't have happened without a wave of opposition to the original ASA decision http://rdrf.org.uk/2014/01/29/an-idiotic-judgement-by-the-advertising-st....

posted by ChairRDRF [137 posts]
25th June 2014 - 18:44

40 Likes

A QUANGO that behaves in a manner that indicates it is unfit to do its job. Is the Pope a Catholic?

Really, though?

posted by workhard [388 posts]
25th June 2014 - 19:45

40 Likes

tomturcan wrote:
The appeals process is independent of the ASA, and all submissions would need to have time to be made and considered......

The ASA adjudicated on it's own decision and the appeals process was not therefore independent. If you read the text of the adjudication it clearly indicates that ASA was judge, jury and appeal court in this matter.

As someone else has commented, ASA is a Quango, and a pretty useless one at that. Once the decision to ban the advert was made, and that ban was appealed, the advert should have been allowed to run pending the outcome of the appeal. ASA also needs to be more diligent in it's work not just knee-jerking to the 'wear a helmet and ride in the gutter' brigade.

Did Nightrider 2013 and 2014 for Parkinson's UK. Might just have one last go in 2015.

jova54's picture

posted by jova54 [627 posts]
25th June 2014 - 20:46

41 Likes

Bunch of arse, the ASA are either corrupt or incompetent. They make this ridiculous ruling on a little public information ad showing a lady cycling ( the horror) and have to spend the next two months backtracking but are quite happy to let endless ads go out depicting cars as the ultimate driving machines to be driven at speed to get maximum penis enlarging effect despite the harm that it causes.

Like I said. ...corrupt or incompetent.

posted by IanW1968 [182 posts]
26th June 2014 - 6:01

34 Likes

tomturcan wrote:
Leqin: the ASA has jurisdiction only over the advertising itself (message, presentation etc) rather than the activity portrayed in the advertising.

Now that I did know, so thanks for confirming what I already knew.

It is not and it has never been the Advertising Standards Authority's remit to start 'debates' about 'what is' and 'what is not' the law in this country. In doing so - in trying to begin a debate - they have placed those of us who ride bicycles at greater risk than we already are on the road. It is not the Advertising Standards Authority's job to state what position is taken on the road - that is already made clear and bicycle riders are quite lawfully allowed to be in the middle of the lane. It is not the Advertising Standards Authority's job to state that a helmet must be worn - no such law exists. Like others here I can only conclude that the Advertising Standards Authority's is not fit for purpose and does not work as advertised.

posted by leqin [120 posts]
26th June 2014 - 7:04

36 Likes

leqin wrote:
It is not the Advertising Standards Authority's job to state what position is taken on the road - that is already made clear and bicycle riders are quite lawfully allowed to be in the middle of the lane. It is not the Advertising Standards Authority's job to state that a helmet must be worn - no such law exists. Like others here I can only conclude that the Advertising Standards Authority's is not fit for purpose and does not work as advertised.

As others have said, the ASA ban on the Niceway code advert (trying to promote 'best practice' rather than the actual, er, law) would have made more sense if they were more willing to do the same on other adverts. But they don't.

And don't get me started on how the original ban was put in motion by five complaints...

posted by brooksby [150 posts]
26th June 2014 - 9:03

27 Likes

In its ruling on the appeal published today, the advertising watchdog accepted that neither wearing a helmet nor riding 0.5 metres from the kerb are legal requirements,

So why did they ban the ad, and where did they get the idea that cyclists should cycle less than 0.5m from the curb?

posted by kie7077 [506 posts]
26th June 2014 - 21:35

10 Likes