TfL pauses road safety ad after ASA complaints and Twitter backlash

The ad, by VCCP London, has been accused – largely by cyclists – of encouraging dangerous driving, placing equal blame on cyclists and drivers, while showing an illegally close pass.

TfL: Ad part of 'See their side' campaign
TfL: Ad part of 'See their side' campaign

A Transport for London ad campaign depicting a near miss between a car driver and cyclist has been put on hold after generating a Twitter backlash and complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority.

TfL confirmed to Campaign that it had paused the ad while it considers feedback to the campaign.

The ad watchdog has received approximately 70 complaints at last count about the ad, which was created by VCCP London.

While the work is designed to encourage empathy between road users, complainants have taken issue with the spot, claiming it encourages dangerous driving and puts equal blame on cyclists and drivers while showing an illegally close pass.

Twitter users also weighed in, with presenter Jeremy Vine tweeting: “This advert seems to be suggesting that you shouldn’t be upset if someone drives into you. No concept whatsoever of the power imbalance: one has airbags, the other is just a bag of blood.”​​

The ad was launched as part of a campaign for Road Safety Week, titled “See their side”. It is part of the Mayor of London’s wider Vision Zero objective to achieve zero deaths and zero serious injuries on London’s roads by 2041.

Launched with the intention of running for several years, the integrated campaign called for empathy between road users.

In the spot, a cyclist and a vehicle driver are shown in a near-collision. After shouting at each other through the car window, they come to the realisation they had both been scared. Simultaneously calming down, they both check how the other feels.

Finally, the ad ends with the voiceover, “If we understood how we really make each other feel, our roads would be safer.”

A TfL spokesperson said: “We’re committed to Vision Zero and the elimination of all deaths and serious injuries from London’s roads. That’s why we consistently invest in safer junctions, protected cycle routes, lower speed limits and other important work to make London’s streets safer for everyone.

“The aim of this campaign is to challenge the sometimes divergent nature of London’s road culture and to encourage all road users to be more empathetic when travelling. We know that people walking and cycling are much more vulnerable on the roads than other groups of road users, and this campaign is not designed to suggest otherwise.

“We have decided to pause the ‘See their side’ ad campaign while we consider the feedback that we have received. We remain committed to improving the road culture in London and reducing road danger.”

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