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"Bowing to the minority": TfL official wanted to revive suspended £1 million See their Side ad campaign by digitally altering it

FOI request reveals TfL official suggested altering "geography" to make it look like cyclist had not been close passed, while agency executive said they were "gutted" at ad's suspension...

The highly controversial 'See their Side' advertising campaign from Transport for London (TfL) that was halted following a backlash last month had a planned spend of almost £1 million, and a TfL official wanted to revive it by removing evidence the driver in the campaign video had close passed the cyclist, FOI requests have revealed. 

The advert, which can still be viewed here, shown an angry altercation between a driver and cyclist after the driver's car and the cyclist almost make contact. The inner monologues of both show that they realise they have "scared" each other, and the two each ask each other if they are ok. 

This was met with fierce criticism, however, for suggesting the driver's fear of an angry cyclist from the relative safety of their car seat is equivalent to a cyclist's fear of almost being killed or seriously injured. The position of the cyclist's foot centimetres away from the car 10 seconds into the clip also implies that the driver likely committed an offence by overtaking the cyclist too closely. 

> Highway Code changes aimed at protecting cyclists to become law next month

tfl ad close pass screenshot

A freedom of information request submitted by transport journalist Carlton Reid, who reported on his findings for Forbes here, asked to see the brief for the advert and all communications between TfL and ad agency VCCP discussing the aftermath following the advert's publication on YouTube.

While the brief appeared to show worthwhile intentions, stating that it wanted VCCP to promote “cycling rather than the car", the request reveals that Will Norman, the Mayor of London's Walking and Cycling Commissioner, wasn't consulted at any stage and didn't sign the campaign off. Instead, the campaign was signed off by two customer directors and TfL's Head of Customer Marketing and Behaviour Change following "engagement with some 27 external organisations." 

In the email chain discussing the fallout, a TfL official whose name was redacted emailed VCCP to say that one of the biggest complaints received about the ad was that the driver appeared to have committed a close pass offence against the cyclist. The official then asked VCCP how much it would cost to "edit this slightly not to show the geography", and how quickly could it be done. 

> Why does road.cc do Near Miss of the Day? 

The VCCP executive replied saying it would take a week, but so far a new version of the ad has not surfaced. The last email in the thread from a TfL official says they are confident the ad would be "back on air in January", and the VCCP executive says they are "gutted" the ad was paused.

The same executive also said they were "bowing to the minority" by removing the ad; even though TfL's research on how the ad was performing shown it had 0% positive engagement, and the sentiment towards it was "very negative." 

Another FOI request asked how much was paid to the agency to create the ad, and how much media spend was allocated broken down by type of broadcast medium. 

Before explaining that TfL's research involved psychologists, police, road safety managers and PR officials and a "cultural analysis" of literature, social media and more than 100 adverts over two decades, it was revealed VCCP was paid £383,119.39 for its work on the advert. 

The total planned media spend was £548,677.92, meaning TfL had planned to spend almost £1 million on the campaign in total. When the ad was paused, TfL changed the advert to another 'Road Danger Reduction' campaign to recoup some of the costs, reducing the media spend to £318,702. 

The amount of money spent on a campaign that was quickly suspended during tough financial times for TfL hasn't gone unnoticed, with the AA's president Edmund King calling for "effective and well researched campaigns to enhance safety for all road users." 

Although the campaign's suspension appears to be permanent, TfL still insists the ad campaign is "paused", with a spokesperson telling road.cc in a statement: 

“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 was 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 was not designed to suggest otherwise.

“We have paused the ‘See their side’ ad campaign and remain committed to improving the road culture in London and reducing road danger.”

Arriving at road.cc in 2017 via 220 Triathlon Magazine, Jack dipped his toe in most jobs on the site and over at eBikeTips before being named the new editor of road.cc in 2020, much to his surprise. His cycling life began during his students days, when he cobbled together a few hundred quid off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story) and bought his first road bike - a Trek 1.1 that was quickly relegated to winter steed, before it was sadly pinched a few years later. Creatively replacing it with a Trek 1.2, Jack mostly rides this bike around local cycle paths nowadays, but when he wants to get the racer out and be competitive his preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking - the latter being another long story.  

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48 comments

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lonhost | 2 years ago
0 likes

I have just seen the ad on the Vemo site and I think it's teriffic - from reading the comments below it seems that we miss the point of the campaign - see thier side.  Can't quite see why people are so devided by that message.

 

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

I have just seen the ad on the Vemo site and I think it's teriffic - from reading the comments below it seems that we miss the point of the campaign - see thier side.  Can't quite see why people are so devided by that message.

Here's a brief summary of the issues:

  • false equivalence - implying that endangering a cyclist's life is equivalent to a driver getting angry/frustrated with their own mistakes
  • false equivalence - it implies that cyclists and drivers are equal in terms of creating danger on the road
  • lack of safety instruction - despite being a "road safety" video, it does not address the causes or methods to avoid the close pass incident
  • lack of focus - there are many road safety issues and going for a vague 'empathy' message is not addressing any of the key causes of KSIs
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Captain Badger replied to lonhost | 2 years ago
3 likes
lonhost wrote:

I have just seen the ad on the Vemo site and I think it's teriffic - from reading the comments below it seems that we miss the point of the campaign - see thier side.  Can't quite see why people are so devided by that message.

 

See whose side Ion? the person who has almost killed someone, or the person who's almost been killed?

I don't think there was much divide. Lots of complaints, functionally no support.

Any divide would be between those that are likely to almost/actually kill someone, and those likely to be almost/actually killed.

I know where my sympathies lie.....

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Colin Peyresourde | 2 years ago
1 like

Unless there is another link the advert can no longer be seen.

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TriTaxMan | 2 years ago
4 likes

The original campaign tried to hide the cause of the altercation with a view to essentially not favouring one side, as showing a close pass would favour the cyclist perspective and showing a cyclist pulling out of a junction would favour the motorists perspective.  The big problem is that in the vast majority of altercations one party is at fault, and in the remainder both parties have some blame in the matter.

However, and this is a big however, IMHO the majority of verbal altercations between motorists and cyclists only happen when the motor vehicle driver allows it to happen or actively seeks it out.  In a minority of cases the cyclist is able to catch up with a motorist (in general where traffic stops the motorist).

In the former situation that blows the whole the driver was "frightened" argument straight out of the water becuase they stopped looking for the argument.  In the latter cases the verbal altercation happens because the cyclist has, or perceives they have, been subjected to a dangerous maneuver by the motorists which I find it hard to see how the cyclist can "See their side".  If the motorist in that situation is frightened they simply keep their window up and do not engage with the rider.

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TriTaxMan replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
9 likes
Garage at Large wrote:

You say that, but cyclists can and do intimidate motorists - take this example at www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/pregnant-woman-distressed-after-angry-2237..., where a pregnant woman was left with PTSD after being confronted by a misogynistic lunatic. This is precisely the kind of incident I'd like to see less of, and the kind of thing that perpetuates hurtful stereotypes about male cyclists. You're correct about the intentions behind the advert however, the idea was certainly to try to avoid "but who was to blame?" questions. I still think the advert has value and am disappointed it was pulled.

There you go making stuff up again Nigel - par for the course.

The woman was distressed following her altercation with the cyclist, that does not equate in the slightest to PTSD.

Was his behaviour despicable?  Yes of course it was, should it be tolerated no.

But again I will ask you a question that you won't answer.  Why is it so many drivers claim to be frightened of cyclists but will actively seek out conflict with cyclists?

And surprise surprise.... you have accepted at face value the news story which offers only one side of the story.... the drivers side of the story.  Yet in every situation where a psychotic driver has accosted a cyclist with accompanying video evidence you basically say that the driver must have had some reason for shouting at the cyclist or trying to run them off the road.

Your double standards bore me.  You will never accept the possibility that a cyclist is in the right regardless of the evidence available, but will always jump to the defense of the motorist

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brooksby replied to TriTaxMan | 2 years ago
7 likes

Our Nige? Making things up or exaggerating/omitting so as to support their argument? Say it ain't so...  3

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TriTaxMan replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
5 likes
Garage at Large wrote:

Drivers aren't a homogeneous group. They are a diverse melting pot of personalities and characteristics, some of whom may be shy and risk-averse, others who are openly aggressive and belligerent to other road users.

So it's perfectly reasonable to assume that some drivers are frightened of cyclists (especially the more bawdy and aggressive groups of men that tend to hijack the road on a Sunday morning - very intimidating to some), while others might see it as a "challenge" to take them on.

I often write that the cyclist was in the right and the driver completely in the wrong. Plenty of occasions where that is the case - indeed it sometimes happens when I'm out riding myself, and my cycling is inscrutably flawless. But I'm not one of these flag-waving sheep who chant "motorist bad, cyclist good" as is oft the case.

OK Nige, find a link to one of your comments when you have actually said the cyclist is right?  I'm willing to place money that I could find an order of magnitude of comments where you simply say that "there is not enough evidence to prove the cyclist is not at fault"  or where you jump to the defense of motorists.

But you have just put cyclists as a homogeneous group that some drivers are frightened of?  Then you go and try and put cycling club members into a homogeneous group of "bawdy and aggressive groups of men that tend to hijack the road on a Sunday morning", because most groups of cyclists are cycling clubs etc.

You claim you are pro cycling but you actively suggest measures which would reduce accessibilty for cycling.

I mean you advocate that the police should stop and sieze bikes where there are groups of more than 4.  So a family of 5 cannot go out cycling under your regime.  School Bike Trains would also be banned.  Or are you now going to accept that your suggestions are wrong?

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to TriTaxMan | 2 years ago
6 likes

Tri, save your typing fingers and just ignore him from now on. He will get worse and worse to provoke responses until he steps over the boundaries and is banned like before. You can tell he is only in it for the provocations already from 99% of his posts since New Years. It is no surprise that one of the most well liked posts so far is when Hirsute stated to Jack that maybe the Admins could do something. 

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Bishop0151 | 2 years ago
13 likes

"The official then asked VCCP how much it would cost to "edit this slightly not to show the geography", and how quickly could it be done.

The VCCP executive replied saying it would take a week,"

From the Forbes article the digital alteration of the geography was going to be digitally removing the kerb from the brief view of the cycle sandwiched between the kerb and the car.

So they were going to keep the conflict of the car being too close to the bike, but introduce the implication that the bike was too far into the road. While we all know that legally, there's no such thing as a bike taking too much of the lane, we also know that this is a frequent complaint of aggressive drivers who wish bikes weren't allowed on the road. Or at least weren't allowed out of the gutter.

Together with the risk false equivalence, this just demonstrates that the people involved still have no idea of the safety issues involved.

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Awavey replied to Bishop0151 | 2 years ago
5 likes

the conflict has to be there for the shouting part to trigger, otherwise its just two people going about their business & then arguing for no point, which is why even digitally fixing this isnt going to work as even in that there London I think thats stretching the limits of believability.

and the shouting part is the whole point of the ad, which I think gets lost when it gets complaints about it part of a road safety campaign, the ad isnt telling people how to drive or ride on the roads safely, its telling people basically how to behave, to not start shouting and arguing with each other, its "see the other side" because if theres less arguing and shouting, maybe we all got along more, maybe things would calm down abit, and thats a good thing for the road.

but the mistake they made is the conflict to trigger the shouting is based on a situation where one party is clearly always going to be at some fault.

so they should have approached it more as keep the driver and cyclist totally by themselves alone travelling, but observing each other on a route to say a local coffee shop, and each getting increasingly annoyed needlessly by one anothers perfectly legal driving or riding.

and then they happen to meet each other at the push/pull door and theres a confrontation, maybe they spill a cup of coffee because of it, and start shouting over who should have gone first, but seperated by the glass door still and then they get their moment of revelation that this is just like when being on the road and they shouldnt get so worked up about it and argue and become best friends again and maybe it ends with them sharing a cookie and replacement coffee.

the cheque will be in the post right ?

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hawkinspeter replied to Awavey | 2 years ago
13 likes

An alternate version of the ad could show the motorist and the cyclist going about their business when not travelling. Show the motorist pushing a trolley around a supermarket and getting held up by a group of chatting shoppers - she issues a polite "Can I squeeze past please?" and they scrunch up to give her just enough room to pass them. Have the cyclist carrying a basket and similarly encounter an employee re-filling the shelves and semi-blocking the aisle, but the cyclist is able to just go past the obstruction as they're not pushing a big trolley.

Then have them both go to a coffee shop (or even Starbucks) and arrive at the door at the same time. They politely wave each other through with a "No, after you" and the first holds open the door for the second.

Then have them get to their vehicles and show how their behaviour changes with the driver complaining about the cyclist easily filtering past traffic and then the cyclist almost getting knocked off by an angry close-pass.

Fade to the message "You wouldn't be an arsehole on the street, so why be one on the road?"

Avatar
Captain Badger replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
7 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

An alternate version of the ad could show the motorist and the cyclist going about their business when not travelling. Show the motorist pushing a trolley around a supermarket and getting held up by a group of chatting shoppers - she issues a polite "Can I squeeze past please?" and they scrunch up to give her just enough room to pass them. Have the cyclist carrying a basket and similarly encounter an employee re-filling the shelves and semi-blocking the aisle, but the cyclist is able to just go past the obstruction as they're not pushing a big trolley.

Then have them both go to a coffee shop (or even Starbucks) and arrive at the door at the same time. They politely wave each other through with a "No, after you" and the first holds open the door for the second.

Then have them get to their vehicles and show how their behaviour changes with the driver complaining about the cyclist easily filtering past traffic and then the cyclist almost getting knocked off by an angry close-pass.

Fade to the message "You wouldn't be an arsehole on the street, so why be one on the road?"

The motorist swinging a base ball bat at head height and shouting angrily "I almost killed you!"

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Captain Badger | 2 years ago
13 likes
Captain Badger wrote:

The motorist swinging a base ball bat at head height and shouting angrily "I almost killed you!"

You're not sticking to the brief about seeing it from their point of view - it should be the motorist swinging a baseball bat and shouting "you almost damaged my bat with your stupid head"

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joe9090 replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
4 likes

You're hired

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hawkinspeter replied to joe9090 | 2 years ago
5 likes
joe9090 wrote:

You're hired

Woohoo!

Hold on, what kind of salary are we talking about?

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IanMK | 2 years ago
7 likes

There’s so much wrong with the advert it’s difficult to know where to start. However, issues with levels of aggression currently is a societal one. Aggression towards Shop & hospitality staff as well as emergency services and NHS staff are now almost commonplace. Both cyclists and drivers are part of the same society and will represent a cross section of it. This issue needs addressing, of course, but it seems that the people that commissioned the advert have the wrong agenda. To use a road safety budget to fulfil this agenda needed to be called out.

As we all know, even if we as cyclists are fully compliant with the Highway Code, down to lights on and what we wear, we are still subjected to careless & inconsiderate driving that can be overtly aggressive despite us doing nothing wrong. We have guidance for a reason, any mass participation activity needs to have responsibilities attached to it. Any road safety campaign should concentrate on education of this guidance backed up by enforcement for those that cannot manage to abide by that responsibility.

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jestriding replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
13 likes

Congratulations.  First person in history to call the Twitter mob "woke".  

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Jack Sexty replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
19 likes

I agree the wording could have been better here, I've altered it slightly. 

I do strongly disagree with your interpretation of the clip, and that the ad was pulled because of a "woke Twitter mob". I don't understand why people who took offence to the ad could be described as "woke", that doesn't make sense to me sorry. 

I think the point a lot of complainants were trying to make is that it's more frightening to experience a near miss on a bike compared to nearly hitting a cyclist while driving, regardless of who is at fault, and the ad seemed to convey that the two things are equally as scary. That's why I think so many people disagreed with how the ad was executed, even though the intentions might have been good. 

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Hirsute replied to Jack Sexty | 2 years ago
15 likes

No need to apologise to the resident troll.
Other remedies are welcome though.

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Eton Rifle replied to Jack Sexty | 2 years ago
7 likes

Jack, don't indulge the twat. He's just trolling (and also fucking useless at it). Can you please talk to your IT guys and see if you can introduce a block or ignore feature?
Twats like Boo just derail debate.

Avatar
wycombewheeler replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
11 likes
Garage at Large wrote:
Quote:

The driver is also shown to have committed an offence by overtaking the cyclist too closely.

No that isn't shown at all (other than what you might want to believe in your own head). The incident is deliberately obfuscated to try to stop the viewer ascertaining "blame". No close pass is shown, all you see is that there was a near miss between the motorist and the cyclist.

However, from the prior footage, it's clear that the driver is going down a main road and the cyclist on a side road. When it cuts to the incident, the cyclist has just pulled out into the main road and the woman is clearly heard saying "What the hell were you thinking?! You can't just pull out!" - therefore logic dictates that the cyclist didn't look properly and cut in front of the motorist, but rather than apologise for his own failure to look decides to (stereotypically) rant at the lone woman.

It's a shame that the advert was pulled, as I think it served a valuable purpose of promoting politeness, courtesy and harmony on the road, but as per usual the woke Twitter mob struck and the rest is history. 

Stop lying

Both the main road and the 'side' road you refer to have the same buildings behind the driver and the cyclist.
If no close pass is shown, why did the tfl executive seek to get it adjusted to remove this?

Avatar
notMyRealName replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
25 likes
Garage at Large wrote:

The motorist replies "Look at me. I'm trembling." I think this is a really well-made, salient point by TFL that it can be very intimidating to behave in this manner to lone female drivers.

As someone you would no doubt describe as a "lone female cyclist", I really don't appreciate your attempt to explain the impact of gender roles in this scenario. You're not the hero you think you are, really.

As a woman who also holds a driver's licence and sometimes drives cars, I understand that driving can be stressful and challenging. Being in an accident where I seriously injure or kill someone is approximately the worst thing I can imagine happening on the road. We need to change the layout and culture of our roads to make this less likely: unless there is a motorists forum out there where all the posters are talking about how it really helped them understand the perspective of vulnerable road users, then this 'see their side' campaign has clearly failed. Nobody is seeing anyone's side and you're just using it to stir up division like some kind of morbid angst-vampire. 

Avatar
TriTaxMan replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
11 likes
Garage at Large wrote:

 I want to increase the number of women (amongst others) cycling, and the key to this is to dismantle the current mindset of both the average motorist and cyclist. And cyclists, whether you like it or not, are currently disproportionately male. So far from "stirring up division", I'm actually looking for solutions. You've simply failed to see my side.

Yes all of your diatribes go a long way to wanting to increase the numbers cycling.... here are a couple of your thought solutions on promotion of cycling

  • groups of more than 4 people should have their bikes seized and sold at auction.
  • Having a leisure ride without undertaking a real journey (as the net distance travelled is zero) on a major road, knowing full well that you're going to hold up others, is objectively "inconsiderate".  (The whole main road part of that is a moot argument as you are equally if not more likely to cause drivers inconvenience on minor roads by virtue of carriageway width and the fact that minor roads tend to have more blind corners etc.)

In addition you frequently attempt to absolve drivers in relation to close passes of any responsibility for their action, instead focus on the reaction of a cyclist who shouts at a driver.

Can you just explain your thoughs on this - if a driver is so scared of a cyclist who is shouting at them why do so many of those scared drivers stop their cars to actively remonstrate with the cyclist?  I mean if I was scared for my life in my car the last thing I would do is stop my car and potentially put myself in possibly more danger.

Avatar
Eton Rifle replied to notMyRealName | 2 years ago
7 likes

What Boo also carefully ignores is that all the evidence suggests that lone WOMEN (it's not "female" Boo, despite what your Incel mates tell you) cyclists are disproportionately targeted by abuse, a lot of it sexual, from men driving cars.

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Flintshire Boy replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
0 likes

LOL! Love it - very interesting reading on a wet Sunday!

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squidgy replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
4 likes
Garage at Large wrote:

Completely disagree (and "lying" is a very strong word by the way). Rewind the video and watch the first 5 seconds, the cyclist is riding down a side road. The buildings are completely different in this part of the advert for only the cyclist.

Cut to the incident (which begins at 6 seconds), and the cyclist has just turned onto the main road, and both parties can then be seen braking sharply. If the incident was a close pass, as has been alleged, why would both parties need to hit their brakes? This clearly wasn't the case, as they nearly collided with each other. It's just been interpreted as a close pass by people on Twitter and cycling campaigners.

The woman then turns immediately (around 15 seconds) and says "What were you thinking? You can't just pull out. I was looking in my mirrors." Again, why say that if she'd simply close-passed the cyclist?

The cyclist angrily replies "Well can't you just see me? Cycling?!", as if he expects the motorist to have an onboard cyclist radar system equipped as a safety feature. He then mentions looking in mirrors, again a sign that the motorist hadn't close-passed him at all.

He then thinks to himself "Why am I shouting? This isn't me." It's at this point in the advert that we understand that this particular cyclist isn't Rendel Harris, and has merely acted out of character.

The motorist replies "Look at me. I'm trembling." I think this is a really well-made, salient point by TFL that it can be very intimidating to behave in this manner to lone female drivers.

The two then reflect on how frightening it is to both parties, and how important it is to behave with courtesy and respect on the road, regardless of your mode of transport.

The woman reflects on how she could have killed the cyclist, the more vulnerable road use - the point isn't lost in the advert, despite what others have said, and there is no equivalence at any point that the incident was in some way equally life-threatening for both parties.

It's quite funny that you have broken down an advert to such detail as if it's a real event that occurred in real time.
I don't believe it's meant to be literal but a dramatisation of general behaviour and should be treated as such.

Avatar
TriTaxMan replied to squidgy | 2 years ago
9 likes
squidgy wrote:

It's quite funny that you have broken down an advert to such detail as if it's a real event that occurred in real time. I don't believe it's meant to be literal but a dramatisation of general behaviour and should be treated as such.

It's on a par with most of Nigel's posts - he will basically try to go to the Nth level of detail to find some way to put the cyclist at fault in any incident......typically this follows the pattern of regurgitating the same rhetoric of "the cyclist reacted to a close pass therefore they are partly to blame for the drivers close pass"

Avatar
joe9090 replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
5 likes

350 words of nonsene and drivel. And clearly no-one 'likes' your troll-posts.

Avatar
Hirsute replied to wycombewheeler | 2 years ago
6 likes

Previous thread has 173 comments

https://road.cc/content/news/tfl-slammed-victim-blaming-road-safety-ad-2...

wycombewheeler wrote:

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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