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TfL parks ‘victim blaming’ road safety ad

The TfL road safety ad has been pulled

The wheels have come off a Transport for London (TfL)-devised road safety campaign after its depiction of a cyclist and driver amicably parting ways following a near-collision drew accusations of ‘victim blaming’ by cyclists.

See Their Side depicted a driver slamming on the brakes, narrowly avoiding a collision with a passing cyclist, precipitating an altercation between the pair. Rather than descend into road rage, however, the campaign depicts both sides taking a step back and enquiring how their opposite number is feeling.

Devised by VCCP London, the contentious ad, which has now been pulled, was launched by mayor Sadiq Khan last month as part of efforts to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries arising from traffic accidents by 2041.

It sought to break down the ‘us and them’ mentality that can segregate cyclists and motorists by portraying an alternate reality where road users defer to those around them. Instead, it opened up a can of worms over ‘false equivalence,’ with viewers complaining that the driver was clearly in the wrong.

Backed by a local television campaign on ITV, the public information campaign has now been paused indefinitely by the mayor’s cycling and walking commissioner Will Norman while the authority reflects on its messaging.

Norman tweeted: “I know there has been a lot of concern raised about the ‘See Their Side’ advert,” he said. “The campaign has been paused to consider the feedback ... City Hall and TfL remain committed to improving the road culture in London and reducing road danger.”

A separate investigation may be launched by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after it received 70 complaints centered on the illegality of a driver passing so close to a cyclist, although it has yet to determine if there are any grounds to do so.

A TfL spokesperson said: “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 traveling. 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.”

VCCP, which has been striving to burst the London-centric bubble in UK advertising, has pulled the campaign from its website and social channels.

The ad was helpfully clipped by a Twitter user.

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