Transport for London (TfL) has paused its highly criticised See your Side advertising campaign following a backlash which saw it accused of “victim-blaming” and promoting a “false equivalence” among road users.
Confirmation that the campaign, devised by agency VCCP London and launched during last month’s Road Safety Week, has been put on hold to enable reaction to it to be considered was made this morning by Will Norman, London’s Cycling and Walking Commissioner, in a post on Twitter.
He wrote: “I know there has been a lot of concern raised about the ‘see their side’ advert. The campaign has been paused to consider the feedback that has been received. City Hall and TfL remain committed to improving the road culture in London and reducing road danger.”
I know there has been a lot of concern raised about the ‘see their side’ advert. The campaign has been paused to consider the feedback that has been received. City Hall and TfL remain committed to improving the road culture in London and reducing road danger.
— Will Norman (@willnorman) December 1, 2021
According to agency VCCP London, the integrated campaign, including the advert which has now been removed from YouTube, “directly tackles the tribal culture which currently dominates London’s roads.”
However, it was widely condemned on social media for promoting the idea that all road users have equal responsibility for each other’s safety. It was launched at a time when forthcoming changes to the Highway Code will see a hierarchy of road users in the UK; this means that drivers of larger vehicles will be deemed to have greater responsibility for the safety of those who are more vulnerable than them.
Among those who had asked for TfL to withdraw the campaign were Talia Hussain and Jo Rigby. In a video posted to Twitter yesterday, both outlined why they believed that far from making London’s roads safer for cyclists, the ad would instead make them more dangerous.
As a long-standing campaigner for safe and inclusive cycling, I’m asking @TfL again - on behalf of women who cycle and those who are too scared to cycle - *see our side* and take down your ad https://t.co/e00iKBvqVy
— Talia Hussain (@Talia_inReality) November 30, 2021
Responding to Norman’s tweet this morning, Rigby – a Labour councillor in Conservative-controlled Wandsworth, and her party’s active travel and transport speaker for the borough, said: “Thank you for listening Will. We want this campaign to work and we are here to input ways to adapt it so it is not wasted content.”
Thank you for listening Will. We want this campaign to work and we are here to input ways to adapt it so it is not wasted content.
— Jo Rigby (@Jo_Earlsfield) December 1, 2021
Transport journalist and author Carlton Reid also welcomed TfL’s decision, although he said that the campaign should be scrapped altogether.
This is good, Will. Binned would be the more appropriate action, though, and I’m sure that will be the eventual conclusion. Also needs to be a transparent debrief to see how such awful messaging was allowed in first place.
— Carlton Reid (@carltonreid) December 1, 2021
Like Reid, former Haringey councillor Clive Carter said that lessons needed to be learned from the debacle.
🚴 WILL, I'm glad to hear that and trust that "paused" soon becomes pulled. Perversely, such a car-centric viewpoint may have had an opposite effect intended. @tfl needs to learn lessons from this mistaken PR campaign, such as checking by persons competent in the area discussed.
— Clive Carter (@Clive_Carter) December 1, 2021
A detailed critique of the campaign was also provided on Twitter at the weekend in a lengthy thread, but one well worth reading, by Mark Hodson.
A roads policing officer and driver behaviour specialist, Hodson helped pioneer West Midlands Police’s award-winning Operation Close Pass targeting motorists who overtake cyclists while giving them insufficient space, with the initiative since adopted by police forces across the UK.
Right then, I've held off commenting on this to give myself a decent amount of time to think about what I would have spent the budget on instead of this 👇, & why if @TfL want more harmony on their roads they need to come away from asking drivers to "think" and be afraid instead https://t.co/hGIF925h5s
— Mark Hodson (@markandcharlie) November 28, 2021
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.