Ireland’s Advertising Standard’s Authority (ASAI) has ruled an advert showing a family cycling ‘advocated unsafe behaviour’. Their crime? Cycling without helmets.
The advertisement by Unilever for ‘Flora’, entitled: “A guide to getting your family active this summer. Get On Your Bike…” featured two adults and three children cycling on a laneway through fields.
Acting on advice from Ireland’s road safety authority, the ASAI ordered the advert (featured below) be dropped as it depicts ‘dangerous’ behaviour .
In Ireland, there is no legal requirement to wear a helmet. While contesting the decision, Unilever’s lawyers also pointed out that the family group was cycling in an off-road context in parkland.
Ireland’s National bicycle lobby, cyclist.ie are understandably perplexed.
“Cycling must become a normal part of more Irish peoples’ everyday life. Normal, transportation cycling does not require particular safety equipment or outfits,” says Dr. Mike McKIllen, Chairperson of Cyclist.ie in an open letter to the ASAI.
“Cyclist.ie is in no way opposed to personal choice to use a helmet. We note, though, that there is substantial international controversy among researchers and policymakers over the efficacy of helmets as a safety measure for cyclists, while in contrast there’s no doubt that laws requiring them have the effect of reducing cycling numbers.”
McKillen points to a recent study on compulsory helmet laws in New Zealand. Adopted in 1994, the law been responsible for 53 additional premature deaths annually, due to its suppressing effect on active travel and physical exercise. He also believes that Ireland needs more children cycling, with or without helmets. More than a quarter of Irish nine year olds are overweight or obese according to Ireland’s Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
ECF’s Road Safety expert, Ceri Woolsgrove believes that the advertising watchdog has got it wrong.
“It is misjudgements like this one by the ASAI that portray cycling as unsafe that often stop people from taking up cycling and improving their quality of life,” explains Woolsgrove.
“It has been consistently shown that the health benefits of cycling far outweigh the risks associated. Let’s not forget that the risk of injury per hour when playing football, squash, basketball or soccer is much higher than when cycling. In fact gardening has been shown to carry more risk than cycling”
Ireland’s national bicycle lobby are now waiting for a formal response to their letter.
In the meantime, ECF and Cyclist.ie urge the Irish to keep on cycling. Doing otherwise would be far too dangerous …
Julian Ferguson is the Communications Officer for the European Cyclists’ Federation. Originally hailing from Australia and a keen bicycle advocate, he plans one day to ride his bicycle from Brussels to Melbourne