Cycle safety ad banned over rider not wearing a helmet

ASA judgement sparks anger from cycle campaigners

ASA has banned the Cycling Scotland ad on grounds of the non-helmet wearing cyclist riding too far from the kerb

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A cycling safety advert showing a rider without a helmet has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for condoning “behaviour prejudicial to health and safety”.

The ASA ruling has sparked disappointment from cycling campaign charities, who say wearing a helmet is a matter of personal choice and that banning the ad could prevent people taking up cycling.

The ASA banned the Cycling Scotland ad, which aimed to encourage motorists to give cyclists the same wide berth they would a horse rider with the payoff line, ‘See Cyclist. Think Horse’. The problematic sequence was the final scene in which a woman rides more than 50cm from the kerb and isn’t wearing a helmet. Five people complained to the ASA about the ad.

The video, published on YouTube in August is currently still online. 

It’s isn’t a legal requirement to wear a helmet in the UK, though it is recommended in the Highway Code. Nor it a legal requirement to ride 50cm from the kerb – a fact acknowledged by the ASA.

In a statement the ASA said: “We understood that UK law did not require cyclists to wear helmets or cycle at least 0.5m from the kerb. However, under the Highway Code it was recommended as good practice for cyclists to wear helmets. Therefore, we considered that the scene featuring the cyclist on a road without wearing a helmet undermined the recommendations set out in the Highway Code.

“Therefore, for those reasons we concluded the ad was socially irresponsible and likely to condone or encourage behaviour prejudicial to health and safety.”

In a statement on the Cycling Scotland website, the body said: “We are disappointed with the adjudication of the ASA Council and the statement that future ads should always feature cyclists wearing helmets. Our guidance on the issue of helmets and safety attire for adults on bicycles mirrors the legal requirements set out for cyclists in the Highway Code.

“There is a broad spectrum of research and opinion across the road safety and health communities when it comes to issues relating to helmet use and the ad reflected this diversity by showing cyclists both with and without helmets.”

Roger Geffen of the cycling charity the CTC said: “CTC is deeply concerned at the effect such a ruling could have on the future popularity of cycling, by increasing public fears that cycling is more ‘dangerous’ than it really is.  You are, in fact, less likely to be killed in a mile of cycling than a mile of walking.”

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Cycling Scotland said it intends to challenge the ASA verdict.