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Transport for London slammed for “victim-blaming” road safety ad (+ video)

Spot which suggests drivers and cyclists share equal responsibility described as “crass, old fashioned ‘false equivalence’ nonsense.”

Transport for London (TfL) has been slammed on social media for an advert launched during Road Safety Week earlier this month, with Twitter users accusing it of “victim blaming” and promoting “false equivalence” by suggesting that all road users share the same responsibility for ensuring the safety of others.

The integrated campaign, entitled ‘See their Side’ and which will run “for a number of years,” aims to change the culture of road users and contribute towards Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s Vision Zero goal of having zero deaths and serious injuries on the capital’s roads by 2041.

It includes the above 60-second film that is currently airing on TV and which, according to the agency VCCP London, which drew up the campaign, “directly tackles the tribal culture which currently dominates London’s roads.”

The agency’s creative director, Simon Learman, says that the ad, directed by Simon Ratigan, “targets all London road users, and appeals to the audience’s emotions with the presentation of a very real, albeit disturbing interaction between a car driver and cyclist who narrowly escape a collision.

“The initial fury is drowned out by inner monologues, until the anger subsides, they both realise how their behaviour has affected the other’s, and they express genuine concern for one another. The film draws to an emotional conclusion with both road users who are visibly shaken up asking whether each other is ok.”

Among those criticising the ad on Twitter were a number of prominent active travel and road safety campaigners, including Dr Robert Davis, chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum.

He wrote: “I really didn't like the ‘See their side. See safer roads’ advert just shown on ITV. Made by @TfL (+ @transportgovuk 's @THINKgovuk  ) it’s the perfect slogan for the false equivalence of old style ‘road safety’. 

“It won't reduce danger on the roads. It has no robust evidence base for doing so.

“‘Their side’ may be responsible for endangering others, or it might be  relatively far less of a physical threat to others (and also more at risk from road danger).

“If we don't base our approach on understanding that difference, we're nowhere,” he added.

The “difference” that Dr Davis highlights is one now being acknowledged within government, with forthcoming changes to the Highway Code set to outline a hierarchy of road users aimed at protecting the most vulnerable.

The Ranty Highywayman, a traffic engineer by profession, described the spot as “crass, old fashioned ‘false equivalence’ nonsense.”

When the campaign launched last week, Miranda Leedham, head of customer marketing & behaviour change at TfL said:  “At TfL we want to make London safer for all.

“We’re incredibly passionate about this objective and ‘See their side’ is a film we wanted our audience to resonate with. 

“The end product is a film which pulls at the heart strings and really encourages all road users to wake up and think about the potential of their actions.

“We’re fully behind helping The Mayor achieve his Vision Zero ambition to eradicate deaths and serious injuries from our roads and make London a safer place to live,” she added.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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169 comments

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mdavidford replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
3 likes
AlsoSomniloquism wrote:

I wonder what all the buildings in the Forum thread said to the drivers of the vehicles to cause that level of escalating violence.

They didn't need to say anything - they just looked at 'em funny.

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hawkinspeter replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
4 likes

Ummm, thanks?

There's a good reason why I don't read his divisive nonsense.

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IanMK replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
6 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

I don't really get the relation of this with road safety. The message seems to be about how to react after a close-call but has no message about avoiding that close-call or even how it came about. I'm all for a bit of empathy on the roads, but the bigger problem is all the RTCs and lives lost.

I think it also perpetuates the myth of the 'accident' like most incidents on our roads are just things that happen and are unavoidable.

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anke replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
0 likes

...empathy on the roads, applied before a dangerous situation happens, can help to foresee this dangerous situation and to avoid the "accident".

...empathy on the roads can also help to avoid the "road-rage" (no matter if on a bike or in a car) and make things more friendly, considerate and eventually safer.

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hawkinspeter replied to anke | 2 years ago
4 likes
anke wrote:

...empathy on the roads, applied before a dangerous situation happens, can help to foresee this dangerous situation and to avoid the "accident".

...empathy on the roads can also help to avoid the "road-rage" (no matter if on a bike or in a car) and make things more friendly, considerate and eventually safer.

Better observation and paying attention to what is around you would be better than empathy and would also help avoid collisions and subsequent road rage. Out of all the things that TFL could be doing, I think promoting empathy is way down the list of practical measures. If they'd already covered topics such as left-hooks and poor overtakes, then they'd be more justified in promoting empathy.

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anke replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
0 likes
hawkinspeter]</p>

<p>[quote=anke

wrote:

Better observation and paying attention to what is around you would be better than empathy and would also help avoid collisions and subsequent road rage. Out of all the things that TFL could be doing, I think promoting empathy is way down the list of practical measures. If they'd already covered topics such as left-hooks and poor overtakes, then they'd be more justified in promoting empathy.

Better observation and paying attention must come first, but empathy helps to make good decisions based on what one has observed.

The left-hooks and poor overtakes you mention would certainly be avoided by empathic motorist.

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chrisonabike replied to anke | 2 years ago
7 likes
anke]</p>

<p>[quote=hawkinspeter

wrote:
anke wrote:

Better observation and paying attention to what is around you would be better than empathy and would also help avoid collisions and subsequent road rage. Out of all the things that TFL could be doing, I think promoting empathy is way down the list of practical measures. If they'd already covered topics such as left-hooks and poor overtakes, then they'd be more justified in promoting empathy.

Better observation and paying attention must come first, but empathy helps to make good decisions based on what one has observed.

The left-hooks and poor overtakes you mention would certainly be avoided by empathic motorist.

Ah I found that cartoon - I've just updated it for this forum:

 

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anke replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
0 likes

You know, you don't have to choose between these items.

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chrisonabike replied to anke | 2 years ago
5 likes
anke wrote:

You know, you don't have to choose between these items.

Left - within my direct control.

Right - not within my direct (immediate) control. But massively (statistically) more effective than things on the left. And benefits more people.

Making the things on the right happen takes time, patience, building understanding with others, lobbying etc. etc.

But if the majority of people think that the things on the left are more / just as important as the things on the right nothing changes. Cyclists / pedestrians go on getting injured / killed. The same tiny numbers cycle.

Yeah - not sure debating with you on a forum full of cyclists makes any difference now you come to it. But it's probably on the same scale of effectiveness as helmets and high vis.

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anke replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
0 likes
chrisonatrike wrote:

But it's probably on the same scale of effectiveness as helmets and high vis.

Well, I never ride without!

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Spokesperson replied to anke | 2 years ago
4 likes

You never ride.

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anke replied to Spokesperson | 2 years ago
2 likes

Around 200km a week, mainly commuting, all year round. And you?

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chrisonabike replied to anke | 2 years ago
2 likes
anke wrote:
chrisonatrike wrote:

But it's probably on the same scale of effectiveness as helmets and high vis.

Well, I never ride without!

All good and I do hi viz and lights, helmets occasionally but not so much. (Nor do I wear them walking for the percentage gains there). Happy to improve my "roadcraft". Happy that cycling is a very safe relatively speaking. Happy that drivers are just other humans. Certain that my "attitude" is irrelevant except as an excuse used by someone after they've beeped at me / close passed / hit me. I don't go around "looking for trouble" other than "being there" (I've actually a rather Garragian courtesy and politeness style). Also certain that neither the bright retroreflective qualities of police cars, bollards, bridges etc. nor their attitudes stop them being hit at a reasonable rate. If they were all camouflaged yes, they would be hit more - but they're pretty visible and it's not uncommon that they still get mangled.

Point: "bad people" gonna be bad, normal people will be careless. Occasional motivational campaigns don't to much to change either. The only attitude changes making much difference would be:

The attitude of the victims (who you've agreed aren't in the cars) - if they were much more scared, they'd stay off the roads and that would improve the accident stats. This is true for most people actually - that's part of the reason ("subjective safety") for low cycling rates.

The attitude of the people inflicting the injury (in cars). I think in many cases problems are due to driver carelessness / inattention and those are hard to eliminate in humans so just like the case of the bollards I don't think this has much long term effect.

There are some rare cases where there is an argument followed by motor violence. You appear to be focussing somewhat on those. I'd agree that changing the attitude of callous or violent individuals is hard. So this makes it rather seem like you're saying we should concentrate our campaigns on the victims in those cases. Is that what you mean?

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fizrar6 | 2 years ago
2 likes

Typical liberal leftie crap written by a team of "do-gooders". In my experience after a driver comes close to knocking you out they are either:

a) Genuinely sorry for their mistake and checking your okay.

b) Total twats (as per the driver in the advert) blaming you for everything under the sun and only concerned about their property.

They do not shout as swear at you while all the time wondering if you're okay.

As I said, typical liberal leftie crap. Must have been written by the Guardian.

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brooksby replied to fizrar6 | 2 years ago
1 like
fizrar6 wrote:

Typical liberal leftie crap written by a team of "do-gooders". ... As I said, typical liberal leftie crap. Must have been written by the Guardian.

???  I would love to know how you've reached that conclusion 

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Hirsute | 2 years ago
7 likes

1500 to 2300 kg 50-60 kph nice protective cage

100kg 20-40 kph plastic hat

I can see the equivalance in terms of potential damage caused and inflicted.

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mdavidford | 2 years ago
2 likes

My main takeaway from the whole thing is that rubber ducks are dangerous.

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Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
7 likes

I'm reminded of the drink drive ads where they show accidents and the australian anti smoking ads where they showed a dead smokers lung.

Drivers need to be shocked into changing until they realise they are driving potential murder weapons - this see both sides nonsense belongs in the bin.

It needs to be as unacceptable to endanger a pedestrian or cyclist as it now is to drink & drive.

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DoomeFrog replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
0 likes

There was a time when we had adverts showing cars hitting children who had walked out from between cars or behind ice cream vans.

Shame we don't seem to have this approach anymore.

Found the speed one.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDpOAXfangI

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Ethel Aardvark replied to DoomeFrog | 2 years ago
0 likes

What about Clunk Click....

https://youtu.be/OhYwEh0IMCg

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Awavey replied to DoomeFrog | 2 years ago
0 likes

even that was quite tame compared to the public information films from the 70s, traumatised a whole generation with those, so heres the Young Ones spoof instead https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiVuHEv2VZ4

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Awavey | 2 years ago
1 like

Although that was early 80's and drivers still drive on the pavement to a scaringly regular degree. Maybe we need a Young Ones refresher. 

Anyway, the ones I remember at the time was flying kites near power cables, playing on the train track, and one I heard of and saw later which was several kids playing around a farm and dying in varied ways, inclusing one falling into a slurry pit. I think that one was saved for non urban based ITV channels.

Oh and the spirit of death hanging around ponds and quarry lakes. 

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chrisonabike replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
2 likes

Advertising: needs frequency, ubiquity and duration. Occasional campaigns likely don't make much difference.  Same with ones that aren't "everywhere".

In addition - thinking of the drink drive campaigns - there needs to be feedback e.g. some chance if you drive dangerously you'll face consequences. I think in those cases it was helped by big campaigns of testing around festive times and also an increase in standard breath and blood testing. Given that driving is so common and it would be most effective to provide motorists feedback on the "near hits" (AKA near miss) as well as actual blood on the pavement incidents this is not a small task. Worthwhile I grant!

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quiff | 2 years ago
4 likes

Obviously deliberate, but did anyone else find it weirdly frustrating that it's unclear what sort of incident is supposed to have occurred? I'm getting mixed left hook / t-bone messages.

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Rendel Harris replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
7 likes
Garage at Large wrote:

 The motorist clearly states "What were you thinking? You can't just pull out, I can't see you in my mirrors." The cyclist replies "Can't you just see me? Cycling?" The cyclist has pulled out of the side road onto the main road without looking.

Oh this is pisspoor quality trolling, even for you. Come on Nige, at least put some effort into it, this sort of thing just makes it too obvious what silly little games you're playing. Must try harder.

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efail replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
2 likes

There We Are Then.

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wycombewheeler replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
3 likes

try looking at 6s before the near miss, both have the same brick building with high narrow windows behind them. The cyclist has not pulled out of a side road. That's just nonsense.

Meanwhile the driver looks like she's driving in a bit of a trance with little attention to anything not directly in front of her.

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IanMK replied to quiff | 2 years ago
7 likes

I think you're right. As seen in the comments here, people will view it through their own prejudiced lens and decide for themselves who "caused" the confrontation. I don't think this helps in any way. 

I equally do not believe that cyclists remaining calm and trying to explain to a driver that his overtake was dangerous works, I've tried it. My andrenalin is pumping and I stay calm and the driver goes off on one because by suggesting he needs to take more care I appear to have questioned his manhood.

Yes it is laughable when the cyclist says "I've scared her". Firstly they've chosen the genders to suit this rhetoric. Secondly,  as others have said, it's false equivalence.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to quiff | 2 years ago
3 likes

They have done their best to try to remove "blame" including the cyclist stating "use your mirrors" and the driver stating "you can't just pull out". However it didn't help that they show the road situation with the cyclist in the gutter pretty much and the car less then a foot away. So yes, attempted left hook on those finishing places. 

Still I'm sure there are some trolls who will watch it and definitely blame the person who would be dead, and not the person who would have been driving and killed him. I'm sure they will go as far as contributing the cyclists speech to the driver in an attempt to blame the cyclist more. 

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brooksby replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
3 likes

Well, being a bit traumatised is exactly the same as being dead, isn't it...? 

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