Trading Standards

The advert above was made in Copenhagen by car manufacturer Citroen and I think it portrays quite a positive message for bicycle riding and motoring. The person wearing the anti-pollution mask at the beginning is showing the problem that the product we are about to see is going to solve – quite poignant in view of our recent heatwave. The basic premise is that instead of bicycle riders being covered in exhaust fumes, the Citroen C4 is a joy to cycle behind due to lack of emissions. It’s showing a car trying to give something back to the people. It’s saying that the car has it’s place, but the people come first. It actually made me want to rush out and buy a ferry ticket to Copenhagen for a spot of bicycle Nirvana as opposed to purchasing a Citroen, but never mind. Jolly good effort.

Then the clumsy bastards decided to air the advert in the UK.

According to Road.cc

‘The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that an advert showing a group of cyclists cheerfully pursuing a Citroën C4 car cannot be broadcast during children’s TV programmes because the bike riders concerned are not wearing cycle helmets.

The advertising watchdog made the ruling after receiving just one complaint from a viewer who “challenged whether the ad was appropriate to be broadcast at times when children were likely to be watching, because it could condone and encourage behaviour prejudicial to their health and safety.”

According to the ASA, the viewer had complained that “none of the cyclists featured in the ad were wearing cycling helmets,” and while that’s true in the 30-second version, the full, 1-minute version of the ad shown below does show two children wearing helmets about 20 seconds in…..

….In its ruling the ASA said that Citroën, which does not intend to air the ad in the UK again, had “pointed out that wearing a cycling helmet was not a legal requirement in the UK, although they accepted that it was good practice to wear a helmet whilst cycling.”

The company said that the ad, which was intended to show how “the C4’s engine stopped when the vehicle came to a halt at traffic lights, which was less polluting and more comfortable for cyclists,” did not show “cyclists were not shown to be riding in a dangerous manner and that there were no other vehicles in the road in the immediate vicinity of the cyclists.”

As a result, and with no children featured in the ad [according to the ruling, which presumably addressed the shorter version], the car manufacturer said it “did not believe the ad condoned or encouraged poor cycling practices on the part of children or anyone else.”

Clearcast, the independent body which pre-approves most TV advertising in the UK, said that while it recommended that children shown cycling in ads should be depicted wearing helmets, it “did not require adults to wear helmets because it was not a legal requirement,” and “did not normally place a scheduling restriction on ads featuring adult cyclists” The body added that it did not believe that the ad needed to be restricted from being shown around children’s programming.

In its ruling, the ASA said that it “considered that adults and older children would understand that the scenario depicted in the ad was fantastical and set apart from reality, because of the sheer number of cyclists involved, the lack of cars in their immediate vicinity and the fact that they were cycling in unison and chasing the C4. We therefore concluded that the ad did not condone behaviour prejudicial to the health and safety of adults and older children and was unlikely to cause harm to them.

“However,” it added, “we considered that younger children might not appreciate the fantastical nature of the ad and might consider that the ad represented a real-life scenario. We were therefore concerned that the ad might encourage younger childrento emulate a behaviour prejudicial to their health and safety, and therefore concluded that the ad should have been given an ‘ex kids’ scheduling restriction to ensure that it was not broadcast at times when younger children were likely to be watching.”’

I wouldn’t be suprised if Citroen are still laughing after the initial shock and bemusement, at how such an idiotic complaint missing the entire point of the advert could be upheld.

You see, in Europe, they treat riding a bicycle as something as simple as riding a bicycle. They don’t need to look like a brightly coloured teletubby dressed for an Afghanistan combat situation. They get on their bikes and go. In normal clothing. Most don’t even regard themselves as ‘cyclists’ as the bicycle is just a mode of transport. To get from A to B. Simply. In some European countries, they’ve created an environment where the wearing of a helmet, or surveillance on the helmet, or high-viz is totally irrelevant. As a result, many of their children don’t just cycle to school, they also cycle home for lunch too!! Those carefree days are gone in the UK. We call it progress.

Once again, as it clearly needs to be repeated over and over again, let’s look at how a civilized country treats its citizens as grown-ups with freedom.

Film above from the always wonderful Markenlei channel on YouTube

Once again, please note that both genders and all ages were represented in that film. Proper bicycles with no testosterone fuelled, armour coated, lycra battles there.

All that aside, why aren’t people writing to the ASA to complain about car ads being in breech of the Trades Description Act? All the car adverts I see on TV seem to show their products speeding through empty urban streets with oddly romantic street lighting, rainforests and open tundra. They make no mention of the fact that their products killed over 2,000 UK citizens last year when used incorrectly. They don’t mention the likelihood of being stuck in tailbacks with other frustrated types looking for empty urban streets with oddly romantic street lighting, rainforests and open tundra. In Guildford. They don’t remind the potential purchaser that they have a duty to anyone or anything else when operating their product, preferably not using another product whilst using their product.

We need to not only return the humble bicycle from just a sports/recreation activity back a to transport mode that can be used in normal clothing but we need to create infrastructure that caters for the mobility of the entire population, as opposed to prioritising those that can drive at the expense of everyone else. Our children should be able to cycle or walk to school in conditions that won’t punish them severely (even gravely) if they make a slight error. Safety clothing must be rendered an irrelevance as opposed to the norm through best practice from Europe and around the World as opposed to the reckless rubbish we see currently. That is what any civilized county would do and what an advert that would be.

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Talk of Stuff and Things

Everything was going quite well until Jim started talking about his Brompton..

Last Tuesday I gave my first public talk on behalf of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain at the Yorkshire Grey pub in London W1. A packed upstairs room looked on in admiration (I think) as I warbled on for an hour about ‘I Want What They’re Having – How the Rest of the World is Achieving a Real Cycling Revolution’. I was rather nervous and mispronounced ‘Utrecht’ a lot. I do hope however, that [with more than a little help from others] I got the message across that; there is an answer, it’s been developed over decades, it has proven success, it lies mainly across the North Sea and its continuing denial in this country is starting to go beyond amusing. If you have a spare hour and you are catastrophically bored, please listen in.

It got a nice mention in Londonist too.

The talk lends itself heavily to the following posts that gave me inspiration over the last few months;

Copenhagenize – Castrating the Sacred Bull in Society’s China Shop

David Hembrow – Stop the Child Murder

David Hembrow – Comparisons of British vs Dutch Streets

Pedal Power – A talk by Mikael Coville-Andersen

Plus the photography of Amsterdamize & Copenhagen Cycle Chic

Also in the talk, I credit Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest as representing the ‘Primal Scream’ of cycle campaigning. Whatever people think of Freewheeler, to me it’s a blog that’s unmissable.

Next month’s talk is being given by Dr Harry Rutter, Director of the National Obesity Observatory on more active travel and apparently July’s talk is being given by Roadpeace so all good stuff to look forward to if you’re in London. Well done to the Movement for Liveable London for organising this.

It’s been a day of mixed feelings at the Embassy, the great news is that we are working on a map of shops and businesses that support cycling as the simple mode of transport that it should be. Thanks to Anthony Cartmell and we of course welcome all your submissions and ideas to add. The tragic news is that the Fererro Rocher heir has died in a cycling accident in South Africa.

..Ferrero, a cycling enthusiast, was riding a bike during a training run in Cape Town while on a business trip to South Africa when he fell off, according to the firm.

The 47-year-old was accompanied on the trip by his father, Michele Ferrero, who transformed the firm from a local to an international sweets producer and invented successes including Nutella and Kinder in the 1960s…’

Very sad news indeed.

Meanwhile on Radio 4 today You and Yours looked at the issue of cyclist safety in the light of recent headline fatalities, particularly with HGVs. What was noticeable in this programme again was the complete absence of tried and tested infrastructure used in Europe. As usual, it descended to the regular arguments about whether cyclists should be taxed and insured and breaking red lights. Whilst the programme makers tried very hard to make it as balanced as possible, it felt like part of the larger campaigning merry-go-round where cycling gets flagged up as an issue in a programme or newspaper and the usual people wheel out the same old debate that gets repeated ad infinitum and round and round we go.

Finally, a campaigning friend of mine in Worthing got his hands on one of those free hanging baskets with free reflective linings that Edmund King of the AA was giving out, I think because the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is nearly upon us. Anyway, he’s put it on ebay with the proceeds going to Roadpeace. The story has even made road.cc. Please bid for a wonderful cause!

The People’s Transport

'...yes sir, I even have to wear High-Viz to operate this stand in case you walk into me whilst I'm holding a biro'

So Edmund King, President of the Automobile Association and keen cyclist, is heading an initiative to give away 5000 helmets along with Hi-Viz tabards in Central London today. The aim of ‘Cycle Safety Day’  is to hand out this safety gear to people using Boris Bikes (in case you’re wondering why they’re just focussing on London), I assume to protect them from AA members and their van drivers.

Carlton Reid has the full story on Bike Biz and you may also read accounts in Road.cc and Bike Hub.

Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize has also spoken out:

“While it’s great that the AA president is also a cyclist, this is merely another case of placing the responsibility on the vulnerable traffic users instead of tackling the rampant bull in our society – the automobile. It also sends dangerous signals that bicycle helmets are effective in collisions with cars, which they’re not. They’re not even designed for that kind of impact.

“If the AA wants to be taken seriously, it should consider promoting motoring helmets and, for example, fight for strict liability and back initiatives like the Dutch one of making external airbags on cars to protect pedestrians and cyclists a standard accessory.”

Whilst I’m sure that Mr King is acting with the best intentions, and I have nothing against him personally at all, this sends out all the wrong messages for cycling. At best his move makes the simple act of riding a bicycle look far from simple. It tells the public that the only way you can get from A to B safely on a bicycle is when dressed up as a cross between a coal miner and Liberace. At worst it looks like a cynical move by a motoring organisation that wants cyclists to act as mobile reflective road signs  to allow for easier motoring. It looks like a move to enforce the burden of responsibility on to the most vulnerable road users. It looks like a move to justify insurance companies (such as the AA) not having to pay out so much if the cycling victim in a road accident isn’t wearing a helmet. Basically, it’s treating cycling like a stubborn stain that won’t go away.

As stated before on this blog, if we have arrived at a situation where grown men and women feel the need not just to armour themselves to ride a bicycle, but to put surveillance measures on that armour, then something is severely wrong with riding a bicycle in this country. What hope is there for our nations children that wish to cycle to school?

What’s really bizarre is that for all this debate and argument on what’s best for British road safety, no-one seems to be even daring to look North or East across the North Sea where real proven, tried and tested solutions may be found. The Netherlands and Denmark have had 2 to 3 decades of developing infrastructure for riding bicycles. They have made mistakes, have learnt from those mistakes and are still learning.

So, back to basics. Here is a film from Mark Wagenbuur regarding a country that  acknowledges that far more people young and old, rich or poor will have access to a bicycle than a car and therefore makes that a priority, as any civilized nation should. Please note that helmets and hi-viz are regarded as irrelevant, as is the need for lycra. Also note the children cycling, not just to and from school, but also popping home for lunch completely independently. Please note that this country currently has the best road safety record in the World.

For those of you that instantly think ‘it can’t be done’, the Highways Agency recently revealed a [potential] £1 billion overspend on the M25 widening project. That’s £1 billion on just one road scheme, which is almost double the £560 million of ‘local transport’ funding that’s been cast out to the provinces. The real money is there alright. Also the infrastructure solutions available to us have been tried and tested, and then some. The picture below is from the always wonderful blog of David Hembrow.

They're just taking the piss now.

It shows a bin placed near a school in Assen so kids don’t even need to slow down to dispose of the rubbish or litter the local area. That’s right, the Dutch have even created the perfect synergy between bicycle rider and rubbish bin. No helmets in that picture either.

We need to make cycling normal again. We have to return it as a mode of transport. In normal clothing.

Mikael Colville-Andersen sometimes refers to ‘Citizen Cyclists’. This is the masses using the bicycle as a simple tool to get from A to B without the need to resemble a carnival float. This is for people who don’t regard themselves as ‘cyclists’ per se but just use the bicycle by default shorter journeys because it is easy. They are not regarded as engaging in a specialist activity or being part of a sub culture. They are just people getting to the pub or the shops but on a bicycle. In the UK we have gone out of our way to make the most difficult mode of transport easy and the easiest mode of transport complicated and it is to this country’s detriment in every way.

I don’t believe the phrase ‘Citizen Cyclist’ would work in the UK however as it has communist, revolutionary connotations that the British might find a little unpalatable (when I started a campaign group in Worthing called ‘Worthing Revolution’, I was asked the change the ‘Revolution’ to ‘Revolutions’ as ‘Revolution’ sounded a bit too….well…..Revolutionary for a seaside town).

Instead, I would therefore like to propose ‘THE PEOPLES TRANSPORT’ as a way of pitching the bicycle to the 97% of people who don’t know that they’re regular bicycle riders yet. Seeing as more people in the UK can walk or use a bicycle than drive a car, then surely improved access for those two modes should be prioritised. Especially as motorists don’t pay for the roads. At the moment, the People have their place but the car comes first as opposed to how it should be – that the car has its place but the people come first. We can’t keep sticking little hats and bright clothing on people in the hope that this will make things better. It’s just not cricket (cricket actually requires armour, take it from someone who knows).

If the Government can commit to the idea of a bicycle being a mode of transport, if the AA can stop putting the burden of responsibility on the vulnerable as opposed to its members,  if we can implement a range of infrastructure measures that are decent, fast, direct, that opens up communities and is fit for our children and other more vulnerable members of society then we can hold our heads high once more, without a helmet. To me, being able to buy a bigger car (with AA membership) doesn’t make us a decent, civilized nation. Leaving it in the driveway and exercising the freedom to walk or cycle to the local shops does.

A bit rambling I know but that’s the beauty of Dutch Bike riding. Lots of thinking time. Probably too much really.

The World Has Changed….

This was spotted on the brilliant Urban Country blog. It’s an advertsement for the World Wildlife Fund in Canada and for illustrating how societal ‘norms’ change through the years and can continue to change, it’s pretty much pitch perfect.. Enjoy.

Look forward to seeing you tomorrow evening for my talk. I’ve been a Best Man three times and appear on stage from time to time as a stand-up comedy new act and I found writing for this talk more challenging and nerve-wracking than any of that. It’s difficult to condense so much passion down to a 30-45 minute talk (and that last statement sounds strange when spoken by an Englishman). Now, I must pop out to get some Fererro Rocher to distribute…..

Local News

Well, I’ve started to put together the PowerPoint presentation for next Tuesdays Street Talk. If you’re in London, please pop along to see me discuss such items as Bull Taming, the British Class System and the Ford Capri. I shall also, as a finale,  be taking you on a pictoral trip from my house to the sea on a Worthing Cycle Network Route before openly wondering why West Sussex Council Highways Officials shouldn’t be lined up against a wall and shot. Or at least made to ride a bicycle along the Magical Mystery Tours that they design and build. I shall be giving away Fererro Rocher and a Worthing Bucket and Spade! Yes, I know Worthing has a pebble beach but only at high tide.

Also, if you are in Worthing this evening, do pop along to the Beechwood Hall Hotel for 7.30pm (in the Bar, obviously), where the monthly meetings of our local campaign group, Worthing Revolutions takes place. We had to change the name from ‘Revolution’ to ‘Revolutions’ as ‘Revolution’ sounded a bit too…well, Revolutionary for Worthing.

In local news:

From Worthing Herald (1 April 2011)my emphasis in bold:

THE elderly cyclist who was knocked off his bike in Goring yesterday (March 31) has been released from Worthing Hospital.

The 82-year-old man was released last night (Thursday, March 31) after his bike collided with a black Honda Jazz at The Strand roundabout, near The Boulevard, at around 10.45am that day.

He was taken to Worthing Hospital with head injuries, which were not as serious as police first feared.

The local male driver of the black Honda Jazz was shaken but uninjured in the collision.

Traffic was diverted for more than an hour as police secured evidence from the road and made it safe.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Sussex Police on 0845 60 70 999 quoting Operation Electra.

From The Argus (6 April 2011):

A schoolboy has been left with serious head injuries after being struck by a car outside a college.

Emergency services went to the A23, Crawley Avenue, Crawley, at 3.15pm yesterday, where a 12-year-old boy had been injured following a collision with a silver Vauxhall Meriva saloon car outside Ifield Community College.

An air ambulance landed at the scene, but the boy, who lives with his family in Crawley, was subsequently taken to St Georges Hospital. Tooting, South London, by road.

The 38-year old Crawley woman who was driving the car was unhurt.

Road closures were in place at Gossops Drive and Ifield roundabout whilst the boy was taken to hospital and the scene was examined by police investigators.

A Sussex Police spokesman said; “We are asking anyone who saw what happened to contact our Road Policing Unit at Haywards Heath via 0845 60 70 999 quoting Operation Fraser.”

Finally from The Argus (6 April 2011)

A man has been charged with causing the death of a 28-year-old passenger by dangerous driving in a crash in central Brighton.

Jonathan Wenham, 40 of Ridgeside Avenue, Brighton was charged on Tuesday with causing the death of Nicholas Messenger, 28, of Old Kent Road, London.

Mr Messenger was a passenger in a BMW which collided with a tree in Grand Parade on January 21.

Wenham was also charged with driving with excess alcohol, making a false statement to obtain insurance and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

He has been bailed to appear at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on April 21.