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

‘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.

15 thoughts on “Trading Standards”

  1. You ought to be careful putting that youtube clip up. It encourages children to cycle without helmets – if it gets too widely disseminated, youtube itself might have to be banned.

    1. Good point. And I can imagine a bit of editing going on to omit the bicycle chase scenes in ET too as it encourages using a bicycle to get away from baddies without a helmet, not to mention combining it with flying.

    2. Quite agree. Cycling without helmets is a gateway drug to driving cars, and we know how addictive that can be, and how many people it kills annually. Banning YouTube won’t be enough, I think we need to ban the Internet.

  2. I saw it a while ago and sniggered at its ‘fantastical’ nature (bloody ridiculous more like). Little did I think it would be time slot banned because it encouraged actions in the under 5’s ‘prejudicial to their health and safety’.

    No wonder some people think we live in a Nanny state. This is patently not true as we cyclists are welcome to take our chances on the roads with all kinds of motorised traffic with little if any protection or restriction. I feel the Netherlands et al take a far more nannyish approach to cyclists. I wish I had a Nanny!

  3. I prefer to wear a helmet and a hi vis vest. 56 years of cycling encourages me to think it helps. You want a consensus for change you’d best stop referring to me as a tele tubby.

    1. Dilys

      You make a valid point. I wear a helmet (it makes my wife happy) and hi viz clothing (as a driver I know it works to a degree). I would still rather have better infrastructure and do away with the armour entirely.

      I can appreciate being described as a ‘teletubby’ might be considered demeaning but I think it was just meant as light hearted description of the degree to which some cyclists feel they have to go to in order to use the roads.

      1. Exactly. It’s quite fitting in my case that a Tellytubby was the first brightly coloured thing I could think of, particularly with my fondness for real ale.

        I’m certainly not against people wearing armour at the moment because they are usually mitigating against pretty awful conditions. It’s all about choice. However, over 30 years of cycling has convinced me that there must be another way. The way we continually ignore what’s happening in other countries is ceasing to be amusing.

    2. I am sure wearing a hi viz vest while walking to the shops would help too, dilys, but I think you are slightly missing the point. Hi viz vests should not be necessary for day -to-day activities.

      No one is personally having a pop at you.

    3. You might think that a polystyrene hat gives you useful protection, but it most certainly doesn’t. Here’s the technical low-down from a helmet testing laboratory:

      Click to access c2023.pdf

      “Cycle helmets are primarily
      designed for falls without any
      other vehicle involved. In many
      legal cases I have studied where
      a cyclist was in collision with a
      motorised vehicle, the impact
      energy potentials were of a level
      that outstripped those that we use
      to certify Grand Prix motor racing

      Cycling isn’t dangerous. Motor traffic is dangerous. An inch of polystyrene is of no use if you’re hit by a motor vehicle.

  4. Now I’ve heard about this, I feel terrible. I took my kids on holiday to the Netherlands last year, and without thinking, I let them witness this kind of behaviour – in real life! Now they might think about going out on their bikes without completely covering themselves in Kevlar and strobe lights.

    With hindsight, I ought to have covered their eyes with gaffer tape before I took them to Amsterdam and Utrecht.

  5. Well AC, I have only come off bikes when no other vehicles have been involved. Twice I’ve gone over the handlebars and landed on nose and forehead and bins. Neither time was I wearing a helmet. I’m reasonably certain that a helmet would have at least saved the bins – the only bit that required money to repair. I’m absolutely certain that people fall off on North European segregated infrastructure and if I’m still alive when we get ours I’ll be wearing a helmet but maybe not the hi viz.

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