German Transport department says controversial adverts will 'jolt people'

The adverts feature male and female models in underwear, and helmets

An ad campaign sponsored by the German government has polarised opinions, with leading figures calling it 'embarrassing, stupid and sexist'.

In reply, a spokesperson for the Transport department which was targeting a young audience put off wearing helmets due to aesthetic concerns, said: “a successful road safety campaign should jolt people and can be polarising.”

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The campaign posters are due to appear in German cities in the coming weeks, and show near naked models posing with helmets on and little else.

The strap line reads "looks like sh*t, but saves my life", and the campaign is fronted by Germany's Next Top Model candidate, Alicija Köhler.

Chair of the Working Group of Social Democratic Women (ASF), part of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Maria Noichl told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper: "It is embarrassing, stupid and sexist for the transport minister to be selling his policies using naked skin."

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Deputy leader of the group, Katja Mast, called the campaign “embarrassing, stale and sexist” and told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper: “Taxpayer money should not be spent to put half-naked women and men on posters.”

Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer, however, believes it's a forward thinking campaign which will appeal to younger audiences and promote helmet use.

The campaign was produced by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) and the German Road Safety Council (DVR) following survey results which it says showed that young cyclists are aware of the personal risks of a serious bicycle accident, but don't wear helmets because they're considered to be "impractical, uncomfortable and unaesthetic."

The survey showed that 40 per cent of young riders do not wear a helmet, though 43 per cent rated their personal risk of a serious bike accident involving a head injury as "large of rather large."

Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer: "More than half of the young cyclists say of themselves that they never or rarely wear a helmet. And why not? Because it does not look cool. With our new action, 'looks like sh*t. But saves my life,' therefore, we target specific young people in order to motivate them to put on a helmet for their own protection.

"The saying may not quite be the same as the usual German. [It] brings the message but pretty much to the point: helmets save lives!"

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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper, where highlights included interviewing a very irate Freddie Star (and an even more irate theatre owner), as well as 'the one about the stolen chickens'.

Previous to joining the Cycling Weekly team, Michelle was Editor at Total Women's Cycling. She joined CW as an 'SEO Analyst', but couldn't keep her nose out of journalism and in the spreadsheets, eventually taking on the role of Tech Editor before her latest appointment as Digital Editor. 

Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.

Michelle is on maternity leave from July 8 2022, until April 2023.