The latest bike safety advertisements by the Motor Accident Commission of South Australia (MACSA) are embarrassing. They provide advice for bike riders that could be wrong and discourage bike riding.
The series of eight ‘Life in the bike lane’ videos on the commission social media pages are targetted at both people who drive and people who ride bikes. Sadly, they feature Anna Mears, one of Australia’s greatest and most loved cyclists.
Given South Australia’s horror year on the roads for cycling fatalities, it’s good to see MACSA trying to do something to reduce the risks for bike riders. And with a fatality and serious injury since the Tour Down Under started, clearly more needs to be done.
However, it’s a missed opportunity. At best, it's a weak attempt at humour to address a serious issue with messages that are unclear or thoughtless. At worst they are victim blaming.
Rather than normalising bike riding as an everyday activity, people who ride are made to look silly and out of place. It also wrongly makes it seem that you need to acquire special equipment before you hop on the bike.
In the worst video, Meares tries to buy a colourful dress and says that when riding a bike, you should always wear light and bright clothing to be safe and be seen.
However, there is scant research to show that wearing light and bright clothing makes bike riders more conspicuous to drivers. The latest thinking is that in bright conditions you stand out more in contrasting colours, including darker hues.
It's true that reflective material can be useful in dark conditions, and the most eye-catching place to have reflective material is on your lower leg, but recommending this is hugely different to telling people to dress like a banana when they ride a bike, day or night.
In another, Meares tries to demonstrate a riding scenario by flicking an office boardroom light on and off and says that the best way to draw attention to yourself when riding on the road is to use flashing lights during both the day and night.
It makes sense that you should use a bike light when riding at night or in low light, but during the day there is no reason why someone should feel obligated to have a flashing light. This message falsely implies that it is difficult for drivers to see bikes in normal daylight conditions.
And these are only two examples of where these ads get the messaging wrong. It’s astounding that these ads managed to get approved by MACSA “South Australia’s leader in road safety behaviour change and education” at all.
With the burden of physical inactivity and congestion growing, we need to be doing all we can in Australia to make it easier, normal and attractive for more people to ride.
Unhelpful instructions to bike riders like these make bike riding seem like an outlier activity, both difficult and dangerous, when in reality it isn't.
These videos are a waste of money and some of the most thoughtless we have seen.
Worst bike safety ads of all time
The ads from MACSA did get us thinking, are there any others locally or from around the world?
We did a quick search and came up with a few shockers.
This UK advert also tried to tell people that you must wear bright or high visibility clothing or risk being a ghost, as if there some sort of Newton's bike law that says if you're not visible you're invisible.
Don't get caught between a truck and the kerb
Data from the UK showed that a lot of crashes happened between bikes and trucks when the truck was turning left.
Someone thought that the best way to fix this would be by showing a truck driver overtake a rider, turn in front of them, run them over and tell riders that there are things you shouldn't get caught between.
See cyclist, think horse
Another from our friends on the small island asked drivers to treat bike riders just like they would a horse.
This comical ad shows people on bikes having their feet worked on and face rubbed as if they were a horse. It then said that drivers should treat riders like horses and pass them with care.
The ad was quickly sent to the knackery, but not for the horse comparison. The last scene shows a woman riding a bike on a road and this was seen to be sending the wrong message, because she wasn't wearing a helmet and wasn't riding in the cobbled gutter.
ACT acts up
When you see a bicycle on the road, think of it as just another car said the ACT Government in early 2015. The ad was put out with the aim of reducing bike rider deaths. It was hoped that fatalities would be reduced by reminding drivers that even if they don't think they should be, bike riders are allowed on the road.
The wild west
There have been a series of terrible ads made in Western Australia recently. There was the speeding slows you down campaign that said drivers should not speed because of the unimaginable consequence of having to ride a bicycle, and also an ad that tried to promote safe passing.
The reason the Road Safety Commission said you should consider passing a rider at a safe distance is because they might be a hot dad.
Molly changes hats
We came across this one when we were conducting our helmet policy review. In this video Molly Meldrum swaps his Stetson for a stackhat, rides through a sonic Australia and asks us to wear a helmet to keep our head together. It's worth a look, also because it reminds us that Adelaide once had the Grand Prix.