Last week Stuff reported on an absurd ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority.
A milk ad that shows a young girl biking on the footpath for 3 metres has been banned from television for “condoning an illegal practice”.
The ad, for Meadow Fresh Calci Original milk, showed a girl going to the dairy to buy milk, then briefly riding her bike on the footpath.
Under the Land Transport (Road User) Rules, cycling on a footpath is illegal unless delivering mail or newspapers, or if the bike has a wheel diameter under 355mm – which mostly applies only to toddlers’ bikes and tricycles. However, this law is currently under review.
A viewer first saw the ad in September 2020 and complained to the Advertising Standards Authority.
“[Riding] a bicycle on a footpath … is against the law and dangerous as cars backing out can hit bikers, who are faster and less likely to hear the car,” the complainant said.
The ad isn’t available anymore but The Project included the cycling parts of it in their piece on the story.
The complaint was originally rejected by the chair of the board who said:
the advertisement does not show, encourage or condone a disregard for safety. Rather, it reflects the reality that some parents encourage their children to ride their bikes on the footpath, believing it to be safer.
The complainant appealed the decision and the board came up with their stupid ruling.
For starters, neither the board nor the complainant have any way of knowing that the path she is riding on is not a shared path. The path she’s riding on is about 2m wide, the same width as some of our older shared paths and many councils have also taken to marking existing wide footpaths as shared paths as a way to expand their networks.
But the bigger issue here for me is the double standard this sets.
Car ads routinely show their products racing through city streets, or at least implying speeding, even though speeding is illegal. They also often portray other manoeuvres that are unrealistic or unsafe for anyone but the professional drivers used to make the ad. They also often get away with this by simply including a disclosure that the ad was filmed overseas – though they do sometimes get pulled.
Coming back to the ad that kicked this all off, I also quite like this response from Goodman Fielder.
As the research provided by the complainant shows, children are far less likely to be killed riding a bike on a footpath than a road, and we stand by our decision to show the young girl riding safely for three metres on the footpath as she arrives home.
Finally, there’s one more twist to this whole story. While the ad is meant to represent any one of possibly thousands of dairies across New Zealand, this one was filmed in Westmere and at the Garnet Dairy, which happens also happens be just steps from a primary school. That’s notable as AT had planned to build safe cycling facilities right past here as well as other safety improvements.
There was lots of support for the project.
Auckland Transport CEO Shane Ellison even assured everyone at the event of Auckland Transport’s unwavering commitment to cycling.
“The fact is that AT, and the board of AT, are aligned with the expectations of the mayor, and the new government’s priorities, which include the cycling programme. But your support goes a long way to ensure budgets, that we can prioritise the budgets, and that we can deliver a safe and connected cycleway programme.
They had even started building it but that all stopped not long after serial cycleway opposer Lisa Prager took to the works with a sledgehammer.
auckland’s cycleway debacle is escalating daily. this is lisa and she appears fed up: pic.twitter.com/gjuoSmT03W
— David Farrier (@davidfarrier) March 15, 2018
Not long afterwards projects across the region practically ground to a halt, as AT disbanded their dedicated team having seemingly lost their nerve for transforming streets in order to deliver on council and government’s priorities. Only recently have these projects started to come back – although delayed and hobbled by the emergency budget – and AT still seems fearful of putting the safety of kids on bikes ahead of carparks.
Perhaps more sadly, it’s now almost certain that by the time this project does eventually get built, the kids who began school when the project was first consulted in 2016, or even when construction originally started in 2017, will all have graduated to intermediate. But you also have to ask, how many childhoods does it take for AT to deliver a simple local neighbourhood plan for safe cycling? Are we okay with that?
Had AT lived up to their commitments and to their responsibilities the ad could have been memorable for another reason, highlighting what great streets look and feel like.