Julian Huppert welcomes advertising ban rethink

The Advertising Standards Authority is a funny old body sometimes. There are occasions when it overlooks quite outrageous flouting of infant feeding regulations in formula advertisements (although one such ad was banned this week for making misleading claims). Then last week it tried to ban a Cycling Scotland advert on public safety grounds because it showed a cyclist not wearing a helmet and cycling too far into the road. The positioning was later proven to be entirely consistent with the Highway Code and it is not a legal requirement to wear a helmet.

There is, in fact, some controversy in the cycling community over whether cycle helmets are effective. My view is that you are better safe than sorry. My niece owes her life to the fact that she was wearing one when she had a very scary encounter with a car last year. Having said that, the ASA decision to ban the advert on those grounds was quite bizarre. If it were illegal to cycle without a helmet, then that would be fair enough, but it isn’t.

Unsurprisingly, our Julian Huppert, a keen cyclist and campaigner on cycling issues, wrote to the ASA to tell them exactly what he thought of their decision. The Cambridge News reports that he said that the ruling was “unreasonable, inconsistent and dangerous.”

He therefore welcomed the decision to temporarily lit the ban pending a review.

I am pleased to hear the ASA has responded to my letter and the many other complaints by withdrawing their ruling. They have said that their original decision was ‘potentially flawed’ and I hope that they will allow the ad to continue.

I firmly believe it should be up to the individual as to whether he or she wears a cycling helmet. It is not a legal requirement and therefore I can see no reason for the ASA to rule against this advertisement showing a cyclist without a helmet.

In fact, evidence shows that countries which have introduced compulsory helmet laws have found that they significantly reduce the number of people cycling, and made it less safe for them to do so. This causes worse traffic congestion and affects people’s health.

The advert itself was really useful in that it was aimed at drivers, telling them how to safely behave round cyclists. Perhaps my niece’s lucky escape could have been avoided altogether if the driver who hit her had seen it.  Banning it is entirely counter-productive and the internal review needs to permanently reverse that decision.



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Jenny Barnes 1st Feb '14 - 4:55pm

    See http://www.cycling-embassy.org.uk/wiki/cycle-helmets
    “The source of danger on our roads is the speed and volume of motorised traffic, and the behaviour of motorists. Helmets are a useful means for the motoring lobby to shift the focus away from this by placing the burden of protection (a demonstrably inadequate protective measure at that) on the victims themselves,”

    Should pedestrians wear helmets? Helmets are useful in a situation where someone falls off a cycle, possibly because of slippery road surfaces – but fairly useless when a cyclist is impacted by cars or HGVs which carry much more kinetic energy than cycles. The classic SMIDSY (sorry mate I didn’t see you) accident is not usually the driver’s fault either; it’s usually down to poor quality of highway design and lack of proper infrastructure. In which context Norman Baker’s claim that the coalition government were spending as much on cycle infrastructure as the Dutch is laughable.

  • Agree with Julian (and Austin from Labour) the decision on this advert is appalling and dangerous towards riders. It was one of the few bits of the Niceway Code that might actually been productive in changing attitudes.

    What the ASA demonstrate is how big companies, corporations and organisations all seem to work together to produce a dogma towards cycling thus negating its many benefits. And the thing about a dogma is that its often a societal conjecture of total nonsense.

    As it stands bad driving is reinforced (through the media as well as the courts). Most riders would rather not be hit or put at risk in the first place and the key to that is greater advice in line with said advert, and across the UK!

  • Tony Greaves 1st Feb '14 - 8:46pm

    Well done, Julian.

  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Feb '14 - 3:27am

    Someone acting on liberalism for a good cause and not just liberalism for the sake of it – I like it!

  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Feb '14 - 3:44am

    People might rally around “liberalism for the sake of it”, but what I mean is that he is acting on passionate belief and has evidence that the current authoritarian stance is doing more harm than good. Some people, including me at times, just want to get rid of regulations for the sake of getting rid of them!

  • Richard Burton 3rd Feb '14 - 8:40am

    Many people are convinced that cycle helmets are “the answer” to making cycling safer, but all the reliable data shows that they are at best, ineffective, and at worst, harmful. The ASA seem to have been influenced by the propaganda about helmets rather than the facts, which can be found at cyclehelmets.org

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