Wednesday 29 January 2014

Buy the ASA a helmet. They need one!

The banned advert
Oh, I am so tired of the cycle helmets issue. I wish it would just go away. Cycle helmets are designed to stop you getting concussion if you fall off your bike at low speeds. They aren't designed to help if you get hit by a car, and they won't. They're not even nearly strong enough, nor could they be made so.

Of course, most people don't know that. Most people think that wearing an inch of polystyrene will stop a ton of metal. They wouldn't believe it if they thought about it, but they don't think about it.

And some of the people who don't think about it are, sadly, in positions of power. This time it's the advertising standards authority. And what makes it worse is that they've banned, on helmet grounds, a perfectly good safety message which was not about helmets. It was about space. Helmets don't save lives. Space does. So by removing that message from people's televisions, they are actively making things worse.

Thank all the gods they have an online complaints form, because they need it. I trust that it's going to get a lot of use over the next few days: I encourage you to use it. I have, and what I've said is this:

I'm writing to complain about your recent ruling regarding Cycling Scotland's television advertisement

Your ruling was irresponsible, ill-informed, wrong both with respect to your own code and to the law of the land, and actively dangerous: it will certainly increase the number of deaths on our roads.

Contrary to your prejudice, there is no body of research to show that cycle helmets make any difference whatever to safety outcomes in accidents involving motor vehicles, and no manufacturer of cycle helmets claim that they do. Helmets are intended to mitigate cuts and bruising in simple falls, and are neither designed for nor capable of mitigating more serious impacts. So whether or not the cyclist was wearing a helmet on the road has no bearing on safety. The law of the land does not mandate helmets, for precisely this reason.

What has a bearing on safety is position on the road, and the helmetless cyclist shown in the advert is acting precisely correctly, both with regard to the law and with regard to the best available safety advice; the motorist shown in the advert also behaves perfectly correctly.

In short, your adjudication causes harm and offence under 4.1 and 4.4 of your rules, in that it is likely to encourage drivers to believe that they may ignore the highway code and pass cyclists dangerously close; and under 1.2 of your rules, in that contributing to road accidents as you are clearly doing is highly irresponsible.

I'm not inviting you to copy my text. Write your own. Lots of copies of the same text will have far less impact than lots of different, well written responses (I'm sure you can do better than me, I'm too angry about this to be persuasive).

However, having submitted it through their online form, I'd also recommend that you send them a copy by Royal Mail, because the weasels will probably claim their online form is only for advertisements, and that as their adjudication is not an advertisement they are entitled to ignore your complaint. They're not. And we mustn't let them.

I am so tired of helmet wars!

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