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Advertising Standards wars: Brighton and Hove Council and ‘Unchain the Brighton Motorist’ go head to head once again

Groups counter one another's 20mph lobbying material - and ASA upholds 'misleading' claims...

The Advertising Standards Agency has been brought into a war between Brighton and Hove Council and a motoring lobby group, over the introduction of 20mph residential streets in the city of Brighton.

Brighton and Hove Council initially published a leaflet outlining their consultation on the 20mph zones, which the lobbying group ‘Unchain the Brighton Motorist’ referred to the ASA on the grounds that it was misleading.

The leaflet made a number of claims about the success of previous similar schemes in other cities, to which the ASA said in its ruling:

Although Brighton & Hove had supplied some information in support of the claims and while we accepted that there were likely to be health benefits to individuals arising from an increase in exercise levels from more walking and cycling, the Bristol City Council report itself accepted that its findings were limited; the Department for Transport Guidance attributed the finding to a study undertaken in one location only, Hull; and the Portsmouth 20 mph programme was a wide ranging scheme that applied to 410 of 438 km (94%) of the city’s residential roads. A report which evaluated the South Central Edinburgh 20 mph Limit Pilot in 2013 found, in a door-to-door survey of residents, an increase in the proportion who considered their street to be safer for walking and cycling following the introduction of the 20-mph limit and a marginal increase in the proportion of children walking to school. Given the limitations or variables in the other studies, however, we considered the findings were less conclusive than the definite wording of the claim suggested.

The ASA partially upheld the claim by Unchain the Brighton Motorist on this basis.

In total, the ASA rejected three of the challenges, regarding a clear majority of residents favouring a 20mph limit; that 20mph limits lead to a reduction in collisions and casualties; and that the lower limit improves the quality of life in local neighbourhoods. It did however uphold the other three, which related to 20mph zones encouraging more walking and cycling, delivering health benefits and reducing congestion.

The ASA said: “The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Brighton & Hove City Council to ensure future ads did not make specific claims about the benefits of the scheme unless they held evidence to support them.”

Later, ‘Unchain the Brighton Motorist’ which describes itself as a ‘group formed by local businesses concerned about the impact of transport policy on businesses in Brighton & Hove’, was pulled up by Brighton and Hove Council over a local press advertisement it placed  that claimed that in 2013 casualties had risen by more than 20% on roads with 20mph limits.

Brighton & Hove City Council countered that the advertisement did not make it clear that there was an increase in the number of roads with a 20mph limit during 2013 - making the advertisement misleading.

The ASA told Unchain the Brighton Motorist that the ad must not appear again in its current form.

Councillor Ian Davey, lead member for transport, said: “The ASA adjudication clearly states there is evidence that 20mph limits reduce the number of casualties and collisions on our roads.

“With the number of collisions and casualties going down across the city for three consecutive years, particularly on roads with 20mph limits, speed limit reductions are clearly saving lives here in Brighton and Hove.”

Last year we reported how an investigation by the Brighton-based Argus newspaper had uncovered the businesses behind the Unchain The Brighton Motorist campaign, run by an organisation named the Tourism Alliance, which describes itself on its website as “A group of like minded businesses, passionate about our City, working in partnership to improve the quality of the Brighton & Hove tourism experience for visitors and locals alike.”

Some of the big-name businesses are the Sea Life Centre, The Hilton Brighton Metropole and the Palace Pier, along with cab firms including Brighton and Hove Radio Cabs, Streamline Taxis, Brighton & Hove Private Hire Association.

The group supports 20mph around schools, hospitals and narrow residential streets – but not on key arterial roads.
It also calls for ‘affordable’ parking and traders’ permits to support local businesses.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

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