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.
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.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.