Ad description

A TV ad for a campaign promoting safer cycling on the road, stated in the voice-over "Not a lot of people know this but you should treat a cyclist the way you treat a horse ... slow down, treat them with care and give them their space on the road." The final shot showed a young woman cycling down the road whilst the on-screen text stated "SEE CYCLIST THINK HORSE".


Five complainants challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and harmful, because it showed a cyclist without a helmet or any other safety attire, who was cycling down the middle of the road rather than one metre from the curb.


Cycling Scotland pointed out that wearing a cycling helmet was not a legal requirement in Scotland, but a personal choice for the individual. This they considered was illustrated in the ad, by showing various cyclists with and without helmets.

Cycling Scotland further commented that cycling had a high benefit:disbenefit ratio, even when factoring in injuries and referred to the national cycling charity (CTC) report. Cycling Scotland also referred to their helmet policy, which discussed the possible undesired outcomes of wearing helmets, including limiting uptake of cycling (leading to less physical activity) and influencing a driver’s behaviour to be less careful when interacting on the road.

Regarding the cyclist’s clothing, Cycling Scotland commented that this was to reflect the accessibility of cycling and to help promote it as a viable way to make everyday journeys.

With regards to the cyclist’s positioning, Cycling Scotland stated that given the width of the road featured in the advert, the cyclist was safer riding out past the parking area where they could be clearly visible to other road users. Furthermore, they informed the ASA that the shoot for the advert was supervised by one of their most experienced cycling instructors.

Cycling Scotland referred the ASA to the National Standard for cycling training’s recognised reference source, “Cyclecraft”, which identified two clear positions: the first being the primary position, which is the default position for urban roads, placing the cyclist in the centre of the active traffic lane; and the secondary position, placing the cyclist on the left of the primary position, but not less than half a metre from the kerb. In this case, the advertiser commented that the cyclist was not less than half a metre from the parking lane.

In their response, Clearcast reiterated that it was not a legal requirement in Scotland for cyclists to wear helmets. Referring to various scenes in the ad, they also commented that cyclists were shown with and without helmets, and believed this reflected an individual’s preference.

Clearcast stated that the ad was focusing on care and safety in the form of giving space to cyclists on the road, and was communicating a positive message in that respect. Furthermore, they considered that the ad depicted a realistic situation, in that not all cyclists wore helmets. This they considered illustrated that the same care and respect should be given to all cyclists, whether they wore a helmet or not. Furthermore, they considered that the cyclist was clearly positioned on the road and therefore, visible to all motorists.

Clearcast believed that the cyclist's distance from the curb appeared to be around or within one metre, and commented that the final scene only featured one car, which had adequate space to safely overtake the cyclist.


Not upheld


We noted that the final shot of the ad showed a young woman cycling down the road without wearing a helmet, and appeared to be located in the centre of the lane.

We acknowledged Cycling Scotland’s explanation regarding why the cyclist featured in the final scene of the ad was placed in the primary position and that this was an appropriate position to depict the cyclist in given the specific road conditions. We identified that the cyclist was shown in broad daylight and positioned on the centre of a fairly large lane, without any traffic and was clearly visible. Furthermore, we noted that there was a large gap between her and the car which overtook her. For those reasons, we considered that the cyclist had been placed in a suitable cycling position.

We understood that the Highway Code recommends that helmets “should” be worn which conform to current regulations, fit correctly and are securely fastened. However, we acknowledged that it was not a UK legal requirement for cyclists to wear helmets, but instead was a decision they could make at their own discretion. We noted Cycling Scotland’s and Clearcast’s point that this was reflected in the ad by showing various cyclists with and without helmets.

We acknowledged Cycling Scotland’s reference to the National Cycling Charity (CTC) report, which discussed the possible harmful outcomes of wearing cycling helmets, including evidence that some drivers perceive cyclists wearing helmets to be less vulnerable road users and that this can influence driver behaviours to be less cautious around cyclists. We agreed that the ad was primarily targeted at motorists with the aim of raising awareness of the different kinds of real life scenarios in which they may encounter cyclists on the road. Following this, we noted Clearcast had stated that the ad featured a realistic situation, in that not all cyclists wore helmets and that the ad illustrated that the same care should be given to all cyclists, whether or not they wore a helmet.

Therefore, we concluded that because it was not a UK legal requirement for cyclists to wear helmets and because the ad depicted a range of real life situations in which motorists may encounter cyclists on the road for the purposes of educating them about the risks to cyclists posed by poor driving behaviours we concluded that the ad was not socially irresponsible and likely to condone or encourage behaviour prejudicial to health and safety.

We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules  1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society.  (Social responsibility),  4.1 4.1 Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18.  and  4.4 4.4 Advertisements must not include material that is likely to condone or encourage behaviour that prejudices health or safety.  (Harm and Offence), but did not find it in breach.


No further action necessary.


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