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Temporary reflective coating criticised as “victim blaming”

Volvo has waded in to the cycling safety debate and familiar waters with Life Paint, the latest piece of technology for cyclists to wear to help those in vehicles see them on the roads.

Earlier this week we reported on Volvo’s offer of free Life Paint for cyclists and almost inevitably Volvo’s move has drawn criticism from some cycle campaigners sparking, among other things, an online petition.

Nonetheless the freebies have flown off the shelves, with Spitalfields' bike shop Peloton & Co shifting 500 cans in two days, with hundreds more phone requests from as far away as Australia.

However, while Volvo asserts its laudable aim to reduce serious injury and deaths caused by its new cars to zero by 2020, concerns have been raised over the efficacy of the product in terms of improving safety, which appears not to be backed by any research. Meanwhile the video it produced to market Life Paint is criticised for overplaying cycling risks.

Mikael Colville-Andersen, CEO of Copenhagenize Design Co., started the petition, calling for Volvos to be sprayed with Life Paint.

He says: "Everything about the life paint campaign is classic smokescreening from the automobile industry.

"Life Paint is simply a way to shift the focus from a failed product that is under fire and place it on the vulnerable traffic users. Pure victim blaming."

He adds: "When you look at things rationally, as I tend to do, you see 35,000 people killed by/in cars in both the EU and the US each year. A 9-11 each month for at least the past 60 years. God forbid if THAT fact starting gaining purchase in society."

Studies have shown increasing visibility improves detection of cyclists - via reflectivity at night or bright colours during the day but there's little evidence of the effect this has on collisions and injuries.

Colville-Andersen, meanwhile, points out evidence from a 20-year Australian study that cars 'lower on the visibility index', like black, blue, grey, green, red and silver, are more likely to be involved in road accidents.

He added: "Where are the Volvos of the world promoting motorist helmets, reflective paint on cars, airbags on the outside of cars that the Dutch have been working on since 2007 and yes, health warnings on cars, etc?"

Jamie Osman, shop manager at Peloton & Co in Spitalfields, East London, said they received 500 samples last Friday, and on Sunday all were gone. Since then, he said, the phone has been ringing constantly with requests, around 400-500 calls at his estimate, as well as emails, Facebook enquiries and requests from Australia and the US asking them to post samples.

He said: "I don't think anyone was prepared for how big it was."

"We have had lots of people posting on our Twitter page and Facebook after they have sprayed it on their clothes and helmets, saying it is fantastic, a great thing to have as prevention. Everyone I have seen say it has been nothing but a good idea."

"There is a lot of talk on blogs about shifting blame but there's always going to be people that aren't happy."

The Volvo Life Paint marketing video says more than 19,000 cyclists are injured in the UK each year, and features cyclists citing daily brushes with calamity. One interviewee says: "Putting something on that will make you scream out to drivers like me is a fantastic thing."

However the CTC and London Cycling Campaign raise concerns over placing the onus on cyclists to make people see them, and the risk of exonerating drivers from responsibility.

Rosie Downes, Campaign Manager at the London Cycling Campaign, says: "Life Paint and its accompanying marketing campaigning is a slick idea, but will it reduce road danger? We don’t think so: collisions aren’t caused by cyclists not wearing reflective paint.

"The video tells us that cyclists need to make themselves visible, but neglects to mention that drivers who are not paying attention can and do hit anyone, whatever they are wearing. The money spent on this campaign – and on the product itself – could be much better spent on concrete measures to reduce road danger, by improving street design and tackling driver behaviour – not giving drivers a reason to take less care."

Downes referred to the Michael Mason case, the man killed while cycling on a brightly lit Regent Street by a driver who hit him from behind. The Metropolitan Police decided not to prosecute the driver, citing Mason's lack of hi-viz as a rationale.

She said: "Cyclists should not have to dress up in hi-viz clothing or paint themselves reflective to protect themselves from careless driving – or to be protected by the law."

CTC Policy Officer, Cherry Allen, said: "Have Volvo researched this product? Has it genuinely been shown to be an effective road safety measure? If any hi-viz/reflective accessory (or paint!) makes people feel safer and more likely to take up cycling, that's a good thing, even if it doesn't really make much difference to their personal safety.

"While a lot of road safety inventions for cyclists are well-meaning (and some not much more than gimmicks), they're no substitute for tackling the real threats  - e.g. speed, motor traffic volume, poor driving behaviour, bad infrastructure and lorries, etc.

Nikki Rooke, Head of Corporate Communications, Events and Sponsorship for Volvo Car UK Limited, said: "It’s about making the invisible, visible. By applying Life Paint, cyclists can make themselves more visible and therefore be better protected in vulnerable situations."

Rooke said Life Paint was a pilot campaign "to help us understand the reaction towards the concept", adding greater research will be needed to understand the benefits. She said: "If Life Paint saves the life of just one cyclist it will have proved beneficial."

"We will continue to invest in developing ever more sophisticated technologies to avoid potentially dangerous situations. Our work on autonomous driving is also a step towards this goal. Driver error is a factor in the majority of road accidents so autonomous driving looks at reducing this risk."

Among Volvo's safety innovations are passenger airbags, and collision avoidance systems with automatic braking. Volvo also introduced a tag system, connecting cars with an app on a cyclist's smart phone, similar to the controversial Cycle Alert system, the downsides being a reliance on the cyclist having the app and carrying a charged, switched on smart phone, and a special helmet which produces a warning light when collision is deemed imminent.

32 comments

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RichOnABike [11 posts] 1 year ago
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Yay! Turn your bike into a skeleton bike *before* the XC90 driver crushes you.

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Mr Agreeable [172 posts] 1 year ago
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Leave it to a car company to market a safety product that literally washes away in the rain. If you're that concerned about visibility, you can get a massive roll of reflective tape off eBay for a fiver.

Here's my attempt at a Lifepaint equivalent for car drivers. Yes, I know it looks useless, but if it saves one life, etc etc.

http://1.1.1.1/bmi/40.media.tumblr.com/618314f22604ee490a890ce92ce2982a/...

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oldstrath [614 posts] 1 year ago
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If Volvo were really concerned to save the lives of cyclists, they would be making cars that were lighter, slower, lacking in driver protection and fitted with mobile phone blockers.

Clearly much better to blame the victims for the criminal violence and idiocy of the twunts who drive their killing machines.

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Gus T [252 posts] 1 year ago
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Another London centric advertising campaign of no real use to anybody. If Volvo were really concerned they would have trialled the paint in the Highlands & Islands where the change to BST has had a real detrimental effect in the morning, but that would have involved real research & no cheap publicity. It's also noticable that the paint was realeased as we changed to BST so it can't be trialled in dark winter conditions. Shame on you Road CC for falling for this advertising scam.

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congokid [263 posts] 1 year ago
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oldstrath wrote:

If Volvo were really concerned to save the lives of cyclists, they would be making cars that were lighter, slower, lacking in driver protection and fitted with mobile phone blockers

Exactly - according to Rooke "If Life Paint saves the life of just one cyclist it will have proved beneficial."

If Volvo could save the life of just one potential traffic victim, wouldn't they stop making cars altogether?

Their cynical hand wringing doesn't have a shred of credibility.

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muppetteer [50 posts] 1 year ago
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Its just a PR stunt. It costs about £150,000+ to have front and back covers inside the Metro and around £250,000 for a full wrap.

This gets a great deal of coverage for Volvo, and to produce a few cans of paint to giveaway is pennies compared to the above prices.

What next, boiler suits for women to wear on a night out to prevent rapes?

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kevinquincey [1 post] 1 year ago
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I must be missing something here. This article tried real hard to instead of thanking Volvo for the time, energy, and money they invested into this early research project (which I for one have wished for something like many times when cycling at night), to instead almost blame them for all sorts of unrelated items, and many of the comments fell for that line of reasoning. I'm sorry but I'm baffled. By unrelated things, I mean things like cases where a driver wasn't prosecuted for hitting a cyclist without hi-vis on and that they hadn't done as much research as the writer would have liked before working on it.

I for one want to thank Volvo for this! It's fantastic! Great idea! Thanks for following through on it. Please keep working on this and other safety-realted projects - no matter how much a couple people might hate that you do.

If I understand some of the subtext right, they even gave much of it away for free! Wow! Way above and beyond in your research here. If in this initial trial, you found it didn't sustain rain well, I hope you'll stick with it and continue to improve on that. If a Microsoft engineer creates a new app that only he finds useful, we all praise the innovation and moving the ball forward. I don't see what's different here. That step often comes before all sorts of expensive testing, studies, and marketing research. We certainly wouldn't expect a company to do that research on the hundreds of ideas that don't end up having legs.

Calling for Volvo to stop making cars because they provided a safety product for bikes is like the hungry man who just received a sandwich from a concerned person (who looks like a banker) throwing it on the ground and stomping on it because he hates banks. I just will never get that line of reasoning.

Hope my 2 cents help here.
KQ

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VJV [1 post] 1 year ago
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Gotta agree with KQ on this one. If the paint had been developed by a cycle brand would there still be so many complaints/such negativity? I don't think so.

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oldstrath [614 posts] 1 year ago
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VJV wrote:

Gotta agree with KQ on this one. If the paint had been developed by a cycle brand would there still be so many complaints/such negativity? I don't think so.

Of course there wouldn't, because we wouldn't suspect they were attempting to deflect blame from their products and the people who use them.

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oldstrath [614 posts] 1 year ago
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"Calling for Volvo to stop making cars because they provided a safety product for bikes is like the hungry man who just received a sandwich from a concerned person (who looks like a banker) throwing it on the ground and stomping on it because he hates banks. I just will never get that line of reasoning."

No it isn't. It's like saying to the banker "That's fine, very generous of you, but actually if you paid taxes properly there might be fewer hungry people in the world".

I don't want Volvo to stop making cars because they provided a safety product for bikes. I want Volvo to stop making cars that can kill people because they claim to want not to kill people. I would also like them to stop blaming me for the inability of people who drive cars, lorries etc. to look properly.

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Ziptie [19 posts] 1 year ago
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I completley understand the response of most people here, it is the same gut/instictive/emotional response I had when I read about lifepaint. I am a road safety analyst for a large English local authority, a recent study I produced showed that only around 25% of collisions involving adult cyclists are primarilty the fault of the cyclist, making cyclists the least blame-worthy group on the road. Furthermore the most common contributory factor in Car vs Cyclist collisions is "Fail to look properly".

However when I had time to think more rationally about it I realised KQ makes some very good points.

If I was lying in a hospital bed, having been hit by a driver who didn't see me, I would definitely have preferred it it if the driver had seen me, even if that meant using a product from the company that made the car that hit me.

Cyclists are (quite wrongly) a much maligned road-user group in the UK. Although the lion's share of the blame for cyclist injuries lies with other road users, having a strop about lifepaint simply gives the anti-cycling brigade ammution to paint us (no pun intended) as people refusing to take responsibility for our own safety. I don't want to give them ANY excuse for their hateful ill-informed opinions. I recently read a story about some students in the US who had developed a product allowing people to test if their drink had been spiked, with a view to protecting women against date-rape. What shocked me was the vitriol directed towards them from women's groups - accusations of victim blaming etc. As an "outsider", to me this just looked ungrateful. My thoughts were, rape is terrible, there's no panacea for solving it, so anything that helps prevent it from happening is surely a good thing.

Equally there is no panacea for preventing cyclists from getting injured on the roads (cyclists have been killed in collisions with other cyclists and with street furniture - so not even the eradiction of cars would solve it). Life changing and fatal injuries are a much more serious thing than the politics of road transport. Therefore I don't feel like we have the luxury of not being pragmatic about the situation, and doing whatever we can keep ourselves safe (after all, 4 of the products in the 'Top 20' article on this website are lights). This approach will allow us to retain the moral high ground from which we can hold other road users to account for their actions.

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vonhelmet [685 posts] 1 year ago
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oldstrath wrote:

I don't want Volvo to stop making cars because they provided a safety product for bikes. I want Volvo to stop making cars that can kill people because they claim to want not to kill people. I would also like them to stop blaming me for the inability of people who drive cars, lorries etc. to look properly.

I doubt it will ever be possible to produce a car that can't kill people, so I'm not sure what you're hoping for. Anything can kill someone in the hands of someone with enough malice or sufficient ineptitude. It's the ineptitude that is the real problem.

I find the whole thing bewildering, because it seems a lot of people would like to be able to ride around in clothes made from some sort of light sucking black hole equivalent and still be able to blame car drivers for hitting them. Is there not some sort of middle ground here?

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ribena [179 posts] 1 year ago
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Quote:

I doubt it will ever be possible to produce a car that can't kill people, so I'm not sure what you're hoping for

This is exactly what most companies are working on, especially Volvo - a car that will not kill people.

I used to develop the algorithms for one such company. It's complex, and needs a lot of testing and real-world trials, but it will happen.

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PzychotropicMac [81 posts] 1 year ago
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Yup. That is what this daily mail of cycling website has sunk to. Anything to turn what is qjote a positive effort into a negative "everyone is against us" movement. Sad.

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dave atkinson [6223 posts] 1 year ago
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PzychotropicMac wrote:

Yup. That is what this daily mail of cycling website has sunk to. Anything to turn what is qjote a positive effort into a negative "everyone is against us" movement. Sad.

so we report on the paint, and then we report on the fact that some people have been criticising the paint, and that makes us the Daily Mail, does it? Whatever.

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DaveE128 [536 posts] 1 year ago
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Weren't Volvo one of lorry makers who blocked changes to EU rulea that would habe permitted redesigning lorries to make them safer, because it would have cost them money?

Look back at their video and tell me how many of those crashes would have been less likely with reflective paint.

If it was an apply once product, I might be less cynical but seriously, once a week?!

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tarquin_foxglove [132 posts] 1 year ago
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Yes they were.
http://www.euractiv.com/sections/transport/eu-truck-safety-and-efficienc...

Frankly Volvo can shove life paint & its victim blaming attitude.

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Cauld Lubter [135 posts] 1 year ago
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Ach, there's always some moaning git ready to wheel out an opinion.

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Ride2Wk [15 posts] 1 year ago
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"If Life Paint saves the life of just one cyclist it will have proved beneficial."

Well I say - "If car helmets saves the life of just one motorist it will have proved beneficial." So where are Volvo giving away car helmets like they do bike helmets and high vis. paint? Where are Volvo lobbying for reduced speed limits in urban areas or much better training for drivers, or much stricter driving licence requirements & re-testing every 5 years for drivers or Volvo lobbying for safer trucks instead of preventing measures for safer trucks? Stuff off Volvo you hypocrites. I might start to believe their safety hype when they include 5x car helmets with every car they sell and make all their trucks safer for cyclists & pedestrians

High vis., good lights etc. to protect yourself are all good ideas & I've made myself as visible as possible on the roads with reflective tape etc. for over 30 years. But a car company trying to get cyclists to make up for the defects of the people driving their products is pathetic and self serving. I will NEVER buy a Volvo and will continue to bag anyone who does while Volvo carry on with their prejudice against cyclists in the name of "safety". All Volvo really care about is their profit margin and market share. "Safety" is simply their marketing tool.  14

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JonD [401 posts] 1 year ago
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tarquin_foxglove wrote:

Yes they were.
http://www.euractiv.com/sections/transport/eu-truck-safety-and-efficienc...

Frankly Volvo can shove life paint & its victim blaming attitude.

The automotive and commercial parts of manufacturers can be quite separate, dunno if it is in the case of Volvo.

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Shugg McGraw [24 posts] 1 year ago
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Raising motorist awareness via visual cues is all well and good but the audio aspect is an area where cyclists are letting themselves down. All bikes shoul be fitted with a klaxon that begins to sound as soon as the wheels begin to rotate. In this way motorists will register cyclists early and be able to make a rational decision whether to kill them or not.

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Matt eaton [742 posts] 1 year ago
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Shugg McGraw wrote:

All bikes shoul be fitted with a klaxon that begins to sound as soon as the wheels begin to rotate.

Gee, riding a bike would be a really enjoyable experience with a constant klaxon sound in your ear.  35

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shalbleib [1 post] 1 year ago
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I'm with muppetteer, Colville-Andersen and some of these cyclists are coming off like a bunch of whiny pricks! How are you going to bitch about something that is at least intended to increase the safety of cyclists?! Is it perfectly effective, are there other things that could be done to promote bike safety? Sure. But what are you all doing?? At least Volvo has spent some time and money doing something! Unlike you all, just trolling and whining. Pathetic! I'd sell my bike if I thought all cyclists were lke you a-holes.

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farrell [1950 posts] 1 year ago
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There are many first time posters on this topic.

All sharing the positivity for Volvo.

Seems a tad strange.

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nuclear coffee [209 posts] 1 year ago
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Dave Atkinson wrote:
PzychotropicMac wrote:

Yup. That is what this daily mail of cycling website has sunk to. Anything to turn what is qjote a positive effort into a negative "everyone is against us" movement. Sad.

so we report on the paint, and then we report on the fact that some people have been criticising the paint, and that makes us the Daily Mail, does it? Whatever.

Yes it does. Like reporting the "controversy" in a global warming story. Or evolution. Or whether someone deserves it because they're wearing a short skirt/not paying road tax/etc.

I'm not sure where the idea that responsible journalism equates to reporting what any old halfwit says came from, but it's stupid.

FYI Volvo, to answer complaints about how they don't put Life Paint on their vehicles, were the first to install DRLs on their cars by some way, and have some of the more advanced cyclist detection systems available on their consumer vehicles.

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dave atkinson [6223 posts] 1 year ago
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So far as i can see the halfwits we're reporting the views of are:

1) Mikael Colville-Andersen, CEO of Copenhagenize Design Co.

2) Jamie Osman, shop manager at Peloton & Co in Spitalfields, East London, the people giving the paint away

3) Rosie Downes, Campaign Manager at the London Cycling Campaign

4) CTC Policy Officer, Cherry Allen

5) Nikki Rooke, Head of Corporate Communications, Events and Sponsorship for Volvo Car UK Limited

but i'm sure your opinion is equally valid, so, y'know, thanks for sharing.

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oldstrath [614 posts] 1 year ago
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 17

ribena wrote:
Quote:

I doubt it will ever be possible to produce a car that can't kill people, so I'm not sure what you're hoping for

This is exactly what most companies are working on, especially Volvo - a car that will not kill people.

I used to develop the algorithms for one such company. It's complex, and needs a lot of testing and real-world trials, but it will happen.

It's only complex because we insist on having cars. No more cars, no more deaths by car.

Or if we must have cars, segregate them onto motorways, keep them away from people (better yet, join them together and call them trains).

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FluffyKittenofT... [1198 posts] 1 year ago
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nuclear coffee wrote:
Dave Atkinson wrote:
PzychotropicMac wrote:

Yup. That is what this daily mail of cycling website has sunk to. Anything to turn what is qjote a positive effort into a negative "everyone is against us" movement. Sad.

so we report on the paint, and then we report on the fact that some people have been criticising the paint, and that makes us the Daily Mail, does it? Whatever.

Yes it does. Like reporting the "controversy" in a global warming story. Or evolution. Or whether someone deserves it because they're wearing a short skirt/not paying road tax/etc.

I'm not sure where the idea that responsible journalism equates to reporting what any old halfwit says came from, but it's stupid.

FYI Volvo, to answer complaints about how they don't put Life Paint on their vehicles, were the first to install DRLs on their cars by some way, and have some of the more advanced cyclist detection systems available on their consumer vehicles.

Nah. The false-balance in climate change reporting is because one side are usually real scientists with reason on evidence on their side and the other side is usually a bunch of ideologically-driven amateur bloggers and politicians who don't have a clue what they are talking about (occasionally they'll actually get in one of the handful of 'skeptics' who are genuinely scientifically qualified, but its very rare because there are so few of them).

I see no such imbalance here, so I think your analogy fails completely.

Also agree on the oddness of all the first-time posters suddenly popping up to declare how much they love this product and to throw insults at anyone who has a different point of view.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1198 posts] 1 year ago
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VJV wrote:

Gotta agree with KQ on this one. If the paint had been developed by a cycle brand would there still be so many complaints/such negativity? I don't think so.

Corporations looking for profit are pretty similar, irrespective of the nature of their main product, I think. So for me it would make very little difference. The pros and cons of the product would be the same. Though I suppose one would might use softer language for a smaller company (e.g. a few well-meaning guys in a shed trying to get off the dole vs The Very Big Corporation Of America).

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Matt eaton [742 posts] 1 year ago
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I can understand the negative feeling towards Volvo on this; regardless of the product's merits it does seem like a somewhat disingenuous marketing campaign.

Imagine an arms manufacturer handing out free bullet-proof vests in a warzone. No doubt the vests have some usefulness but making fewer guns or being more selective in how they are sold would be much more helpful.

If Volvo really wanted to improve road safety they would be calling for measures to bring about modal shift away from the motor car and to provide safe infrastructure design for alternative modes. This is obviously not going to be good for business so we see things like this that will not negatively impact their business but have very debatable real-world benefits.

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