A television advert created by Cycling Scotland calling for greater awareness of cyclists on the roads has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) because it shows a cyclist not using a helmet.

The ASA branded the advert as ‘socially irresponsible’ in its ruling because one scene shows a woman riding a bike with no helmet as a car passes her, despite it not being a legal requirement. Other cyclists in the light-hearted advert do wear helmets.

“We considered that the scene featuring the cyclist on a road without wearing a helmet undermined the recommendations set out in the Highway Code,” said the ASA.

“Furthermore, we were concerned that whilst the cyclist was more than 0.5 metres from the kerb, they appeared to be located more in the centre of the lane when the car behind overtook them and the car almost had to enter the right lane of traffic. Therefore, for those reasons we concluded the ad was socially irresponsible and likely to condone or encourage behaviour prejudicial to health and safety.”

The ASA has ruled that the advert cannot be shown again ‘in its current form’ and that it had stipulated that all future adverts should feature cyclists wearing helmets and that they should be ‘placed in the most suitable cycling position’.

Final scene from the banned Cycling Scotland campaign advert

Cycling Scotland has said that it will appeal against the decision:

“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,” said Cycling Scotland in a statement.

“The advert was produced in close consultation with an experienced cycle training instructor who carefully considered the use of road positioning and safety attire required for cycling in the daytime. The road positioning in the advert complies with the National Standard for cycle training, which is referenced within the Highway Code.

“The driver of the car in the advert also follows the Highway Code, which states that vulnerable road users, such as those on a bicycle, should be given at least as much space as you would give a car when overtaking.

“Cycling Scotland fully intends to pursue the ASA Council’s Independent Review process open to us.”

National cycling charity CTC’s Chief Executive Gordon Seabright said: “The ASA’s ill-advised decision shows a misunderstanding of common cycle safety issues and risks undermining the promotion of cycling as a safe and normal activity.”

Watch the full advert below (while you can…)

  • andrew smith

    I don’t think it should be overturned i think she should be wearing a helmet i don’t agree with the other stuff like distance from the kirb ect but still i would rather kids see any cyclist on the road on tv wearing helmets even if its not the law,

    as no matter what anyone says i know from experience that a helmet can minimize the damage taken from a impact on your head.

    there are always the folk who want to be well yeh i don’t need to wear a helmet and that’s up to them but as far as kids go i would not want one to not wear one because they seen the lady on tv not wearing one…

  • Lydia

    I never see any women cyclists who look or ride like this.

    Two male cyclists – one in Lycra with helmet, one in normal clothes and shoes with helmet.
    One woman cyclist – girly shoes, flowing skirt, hair blowing in the wind (Kelly Brook-style), no helmet.

    It should be banned for conforming to sexist stereotypes, helmet or no helmet!

  • Robert Davis

    If you go to http://rdrf.org.uk/2014/01/29/an-idiotic-judgement-by-the-advertising-standards-authority/ you can see details of the petition you can sign to ask the ASA to reverse this decision

  • Nick

    The first car ad I googled after reading this showed a car cutting corners and the speedo going over 70. Almost all car ads should be banned on these rules!

  • Pete
  • Ken Evans

    The car shown is from the 1970s, before catalytic converters, when petrol contained toxic lead. The use of such polluting vehicles is to be discouraged. The cyclist on the other hand, is not so polluting, and toxic to the environment.

  • Robert

    There is so much wrong with the ASA’s actions here that it is hard to know where to start. For one the Highway Code includes an illustration of the correct way to overtake a cyclist, and it shows that a driver SHOULD move out enough to cross or straddle the centre/ lane marking in order to give the cyclist the maximum amount of space. (And by implication, if they cannot do this due to oncoming vehicles, they should not be overtaking at all.) In any case, the Highway Code generally takes a very ‘car centric’ view of the responsibilities of road users (a continuing reflection of the fact that it was first drafted by motoring organisations) so it can hardly be regarded as being the final word on what constitutes best practice with regards road safety. For example, much advice that would make the roads safer for both motorists and other road users is omitted, often because it might see a motorist face the sort of ‘contributory negligence’ claims that are often levied against cyclists who don’t wear a polystyrene hat. One example is the omission of advising drivers to select a car with a high Euro NCAP rating. Similarly, the Code never has included advice not to fit ‘bull bars’ to vehicles, despite the proven risk these pose to other road users.

  • Ric Stern

    People, the number to ring to make a formal complaint about the ASA’s decision in this matter is: 020 7492 2222. Ring now. Demand to speak to a senior manager to escalate the complaint. Tell them it isn’t a legal requirement to wear a helmet, and that cyclists can “take the lane”. Make your voice heard. Apparently, they’ve had a lot of complaints today…. I think they maybe about to reverse their earlier decision….

  • David

    Alternatively, pass on comments of support to Cycling Scotland at info@cyclingscotland.org which they may use in support of their argument to the independant reviewer. They are less likely to be ignored if you do this…

  • hesh

    Should they also then ban road safety ads which show cars speeding?

  • Pete

    Re my recent post, folks will need to scroll down to use the ASA “contact us” form:


  • Pete

    I strongly suggest as many folks as possible complain to the ASA.

    Here’s the correct link for the ASA itself.


    Or if you prefer, you can complain about the decison to these people:

    Independent Reviewer of ASA Adjudications
    7th Floor North
    Artillery House
    11-19 Artillery Row
    SW1P 1RT
    email: indrev@asbof.co.uk

    If the ASA consider this advert is “socially irresponsible”, I’d love to know how Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear get away with their antics.

    What a country!

  • Purple comet

    The Highway Code gives definite guidance to motorists…… When overtaking a cyclist, do so as you would overtake a small car. Nothing to do with horses I’m afraid. The car driver would also do well to look where he is driving. Ahead and not sideways at the cyclist. Difficult to see if he is wearing aseatbelt too!

  • JD

    It is socially irresponsible for the ASA NOT to show this advert because that is precisely how many cyclists use the road.

    Utter nonsense masquerading as concern.

  • Colnago Dave

    Completely agree with every post especially as the ASA are exceeding their brief like so many government departments. How often are we advised as cyclists to assert our presence on the road and not hug the potholed laden debris strewn edge. Keep well into the left and no matter how wide the road some idiot in a car will still skim you. I take it the ASA will provide evidence that if the woman had been wearing a helmet and the passing motorist had hit her squarely from behind at 60 MPH and she was thrown 50 feet in the air and landed on her head she would be miraculously intact.
    I’ve had reason to write to the ASA about misleading car insurance and the response was basically they could not take any action.
    One law for !!??

  • JM

    Oh, and at the very end of the advert she is approaching potholes adjacent to the kerb. A damn good reason to pull out.

  • JM

    In my experience, if you ride high enough to force cars to cross the centre white line they take much more care when passing you. If you ride tight to the kerb a) you encounter sunken drains, b) you have less space to avoid potholes (any movement is inevitably outwards) and c) cars will squeeze past you in the face on on-coming traffic.

    As to the lack of a helmet – we are told we are increasingly becoming an obese nation. Cycling is a good way to get around. It is clean and it provides exercise. The empirical evidence shows that cyclists in accidents have no greater incidence of head injury that pedestrians. If everyone has to wear a helmet, then how on earth do we expect to get everyone cycling. Also, what about the Boris bikes? No helmets there in London, which has the most dangerous roads for cyclists in the country.

    Nanny state madness. The ASA’s job is to make sure adverts are not misleading. It is not to make sure that they conform to some preconception of what is best for us. If they were, there would be no advertising for Cadbury’s chocolate, M&Ms, etc., etc.

  • David Bolton

    This shows everything that is wrong with this country. An advert that has the potential to save a significant number of lives, is banned because of some ‘advice’ not the law, advice.

    The Gentleman driving the open top car is not wearing a helmet either, given the excess speeds he could potentially reach in that vehicle I would advise him to wear a full face-covering racing helmet.

    As for road positioning, in that scene above the cyclist is riding in the perfect position given the T-junction she has passed, the obvious rough road surface at the edge, and the width of the road.

    As for ‘The car nearly had to cross onto the other side of the road to pass’. Isn’t that the point of the advert, you should give a cyclist the same space you would give a horse and thus may need to cross the centre line to give the required space.

    How do we go about getting this flawed and stupid decision overturned?

  • gg/gg

    I doubt if this type of bike rider would wear an helmet.

  • Mike

    I can not begin to go into how wrong the ASA are in so many ways. Give me strength. It shows a commuter, riding to work or the shops. Dressed casually and not having to wear cycling shoes, lycra or so called safety equipment. What better advert could you see to promote cycling as “ordinary”.

  • Brian Turpin

    I think the ASA have extended their brief here, I can’t think it’s their job to wade into the cycling helmets issue, after all they have endorsed countless adverts that promote fast cars without giving any health warnings.

    Incidentally, horses (and their riders) also get pretty poor treatment from motorised road users so I’m not sure that’s a good analogy either!