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Auto Trader responds to criticism of its #SwearToChange campaign which sees reflective gear offered free to vulnerable road users

Used car magazine and website tells road.cc it has had "a great response from the cycling communities"a...

Our article last week about how Auto Trader’s #SwearToChange campaign, which includes giving away free reflective gear to cyclists, runners and dog-walkers, had attracted a backlash on social media generated plenty of comments – and now the people at the used car magazine and website have got in touch with us to outline why they launched the campaign, what the response has been, and how it will evolve.

> Auto Trader's #SwearToChange road safety campaign offers free reflective gear to cyclists - and sparks a social media backlash

Much of the criticism of the initiative, which is aimed at improving the safety of all road users and encouraging them to be more courteous towards one another, questioned what incentive there was for drivers to change their behaviour, given they are responsible for the vast majority of deaths or serious injuries on Britain’s roads.

A spokesman for Auto Trader told road.cc: “The purpose of the #SwearToChange campaign is to spark debate and give a platform to all different types of road users on what they would like to see change on UK roads. The campaign is to encourage a change in attitudes and behaviours with drivers as much as other road users.

“Over the last week we’ve received a great response from the cycling communities on social media, with a huge array of suggestions on what changes and actions could be taken to improve consideration and safety for cyclists.

“This is exactly the contribution we need to make this debate as open and constructive as possible for all road users and we hope #SwearToChange will continue to enable this.”

We did highlight that Auto Trader itself has been emphasising through social media and on its website issues such as giving cyclists adequate space when overtaking, as well as the Dutch Reach technique, which is aimed at preventing ‘dooring’.

Returning to the #SwearToChange campaign, as we said in conclusion to last week’s article, and with reference to giving away reflective gear to vulnerable road users, while we sure it wasn’t Auto Trader’s intention,

The problem with such campaigns is that, however well-meant, they tend to reinforce the perception that the safety of people riding bikes and other vulnerable road users is their own responsibility are thereby seen as absolving motorists of responsibility.

In response, the spokesman said: “Auto Trader acknowledges that high-visibility clothing is not the one-stop answer to improving road safety, and that’s why #SwearToChange is about something bigger: encouraging open debate and challenging old attitudes on road ownership.

“The merchandise is a free gift from Auto Trader to those that have shared what change they would like to see and as a thank you for supporting our campaign.

“We have had an overwhelming demand for the merchandise so far from a wide range of road users, as well as experienced cyclists and novices alike, so we hope it will continue to be a welcome gift for those that want it.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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