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.

There are plenty of other examples too. For example in this one it was ruled that parking a motorised scooter on a pedestrian crossing was not an issue.

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.

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.

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  1. Here’s another double standard. The NZPost electric Paxster car drivers use the footpath around our house. The speed they travel at is much faster than pedestrian pace. For the size and speed they should stay on the road and the postie can easily walk to the letterbox.

      1. They are legally allowed on the road, that’s why they have number plates and can often be seen driving on the road.

  2. Now that they have set a precedent that use of a transportation device being portrayed in an illegal manner is not permitted in advertising, shall we flood their complaints inbox every time a car ad like so appears on TV?

    Why stop at cars though? Anything and everything that is illegal shall be banned!

    1. To start with it appears that the white station wagon in the background behind the girl in the bike is partially blocking the footpath (by a few centimeters).

      There is a big problem of residents illegally parking on footpaths in the greater Ponsonby area, so this kind of illegal should not be encouraged.

      1. It’s obstructing the vehicle crossing, not just the paved part of the footpath. It’s parked entirely illegally, not just by a few centimetres.

  3. I feel like what’s really being objected to here is the depiction of children being allowed to develop their independence. The practice of letting children out of the house unsupervised isn’t illegal so the complainant had to find some other technicality to moan about.

    1. Yes, and one of the team of cycleway objectors that AT are scared of told me directly that cities are no place for children to be out and about by themselves, nor to be cycling. That parents must accompany them until they are 12. AT’s job is to provide a safe network, not to pander to unhealthy minority values.

  4. Advertisements for SUVs often have them charging down beaches at great speed. Even where driving on a beach is legal generally the speed limit is 30km.

    1. All Ad’s for motor vehicles should be submitted to Advertising Standards Authority as they all seem to be suspect .

  5. Raises a good point, rather than cut the bike out or reshoot the advert which they did, why not just CGI a shared path in, would have been easily to add some words or white dotted lines. Would have really messed with the complainant and also show how cycle paths can assist children’s independence. Disconnected thinking.

    1. You don’t need to CGI a white painted line. I have sent the ASA three photos of shared paths in my neighbourhood which have no lines and are indistinguishable from footpaths.

        1. Heidi is saying that you don’t need to do any CGI. You can just ‘explain away’ the complaint by arguing that the footpath could realistically be a legal shared path.

  6. My 10 year old rode his bike to primary school every day last year, by himself on the footpath. The alternative would have been for him to ride in four lanes of rush hour traffic on Jervois Rd.

    He understood the importance of giving way to pedestrians on the footpath. But forcing him to ride on the road? Crazy.

    1. I cycle in the footpath where it is safer to do so. Narrow lane , random parked car, duck onto footpath to bypass lots of traffic. Fines better than being squashed

        1. You may well be ok but where should the line be drawn? There are plenty of ‘give an inch take a mile’ types that consider all footpaths are a highway for them to cycle on with their (often electrically assisted) bicycles. Crowded central city…. pedestrians get out of my way attitude… even where there are walk your wheels signs.

  7. Imagine the thought process that goes on in the mind of the complainant. When your life is so boring and uninspiring that you resort to making advertisement complaints about a child on a bike. This is actually representative of a much bigger problem, ignorant, very unintelligent people who make up a huge part of the population. No wonder progress is so hard.

  8. All good points, well made, except for the video from Bike Auckland. That one shows plenty of self entitled idiots, breaking the law, by cycling without a helmet.

    1. You mean the law that only one other country in the world has decided makes sense? Objection to that is about as sensible as objecting to this milk advert…

    2. We were also breaking the law by riding more than two abreast, and probably illegally holding up traffic. Also can guarantee that several of those bikes would not have been road-legal, lacking the required reflectors or something. Worst of all, I distinctly remember some people rode on the footpath at some point during the ride.
      You’re welcome to come out and yell at us next time, furiously pointing at your head.

      1. Come on guys, you are the people that give us cyclists such a bad name. Saying that there is no evidence that say bike helmets save lives is BS and totally irresponsible for an organization like Bike Auckland. Going for a ride without your lid is as stupid as not using the track and trace app during a global pandemic.
        Having to wear a lid is not a barrier to cycling. Not having a bike is a barrier, but if you can afford a bike/remember to bring a bike when you plan to cycle, you can also afford/remember a helmet.
        In any case, it is the law. Laws are not a pick and chose option for princesses.

      2. A friend of mine came off his bike when he did not see the only speed hump on the road through a park that had not been painted with white cross hatching. He landed on the corner edge of the kerb with his head. He has an ongoing brain injury, but the cycle helmet saved his life. He was not travelling fast. Despite several complaints the lone speed hump is still not painted. Helmets do improve cycling safety.

  9. Seems to me there are real cyclists out on the road and then there are kids and adults who are ambling along on the footpath at not a lot greater speed than a walker. In fact its legal for a mobility scooter to be on a footpath and some of them can do 15 kilometres per hour. I have often thought about making the footpaths wider by concreting over the berms in my area walkers and cyclists would still need to dodge the power poles and lamp posts. If the berms were incorporated into the footpath at least cars that parked on them could be ticketed. But then we have environmental costs for CO2 in cement production and excessive runoff overloading storm water systems. So maybe a speed limit for bikes, scooters, mobility scooters and runners on a footpath. But then again there are plenty of laws that are not policed as it is like masks on public transport or helmets on bikes.
    I am pretty much immune to advertising though.
    Just out of interest on the CO2 thing are some of the paving stones in the new square in front of Britomart (sorry I cant remember its name) actual natural stone or are they artificial cement based composite disguised to look like natural stone.

    1. It looks like natural stone to me but pavers that are relatively thin and on a base of concrete so there is CO2. The concrete should last decades though so vs a motorway lane or busy road being repaved every few years a minor issue.

  10. “Car ads routinely show their products racing through city streets, or at least implying speeding, even though speeding is illegal.”

    A search of the ASA website will show car ads knocked back for possibly condoning dangerous driving or excessive speed, and a few complaints about this being upheld or settled. This isn’t new either, in the Gran Turismo days a Holden ad was knocked back because a video-game styled-ad was ruled to be possibly encouraging dangerous driving in an urban setting.

  11. The bike video is a bit of a parade. We had one a few weeks back out here. It was lead by half a dozen patched tribesman on their Harleys and was followed by at least 20 lowered cars and utes with big exhaust pipes and loud speakers strapped to the roof. All cars were playing different music so no synchronisation what a racket. There were super cool chicks on the passenger side sitting on the window sill more out than in recording the whole thing. Everyone having a great time.

    1. Clearly insane. I hope that nobody here has ever visited her silly bakery since this debacle and has discouraged others from doing so.

  12. There was a similar case in the UK in 2014. Someone complained about a cycle safety promotional advert which showed a person riding a bicycle without a cycle helmet.

    The ad was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), then the ban was overturned when it was pointed out that cycling bare-headed in the UK is (like in most countries) a completely legal activity.

  13. The worst part is where they put the recycling/rubbish bins on the footpath especially in West Auckland. It create an obstacle course for a walker like me, let alone people in the wheelchairs, person pushing pram or a little cyclists. Therefore is putting the bins on footpath is illegal?

    1. I was under the impression that you had to put your bin on the footpath, as that’s what everyone on my street does. The auckland council website says “kerbside”, I presume that means on the road itself. I agree that they are obviously a big obstacle if you need a certain amount of width to navigate the footpath.

  14. Thanks for writing this piece Matt. I saw the news item about this innocuous little advert being pulled and felt very angry at the double standards you have highlighted.

    Today in the Dominion Post was a letter from a motorist complaining that he might hit a cyclist riding on the footpath as he backs out of his driveway. Since when do vehicles crossing the footpath have right of way over people on the footpath? That theoretical ‘illegal cyclist’ could equally be a legitimate delivery-cyclist, or a runner, or someone on a scooter, or a child on a bike with wheels less-than 355mm, or even an elderly person on a mobility-scooter. Once again this highlights the presumptuous expectation of certain drivers that everyone should get out of their way, even on a footpath.

    1. The real problem there is the backing out the driveway. It is statistically safer to drive out but apparently impossible for the majority to do so.
      Same goes for parking especially supermarkets etc.

  15. It’s usually only the older generation like people in there 60s plus who complain about bikes and scooters on the footpaths.
    I rode my e scooter about 100m on the footpath to avoid a dangerous blind corner where drivers tend to hug the embankment, with a max speed of 32kmph I wouldn’t want to get caught between a bus and a concrete wall.
    As I approached a chap walking towards me I slowed down and passed him on the grass between the road and footpath, he shouted out “bugger off the footpath with that thing you should be on the road”
    I stopped and had a bit of a debate. Saying I rarely use the footpath and that I always give way to pedestrians if I do.
    He just kept barking at me saying the footpath is for people on foot etc.
    I will keep using the footpath in situations where it is not safe on the road.

  16. I do support the proposals in the Accessible Streets Rule Amendment proposals to allow for footpath cycling to be legal. When asked about it recently WK NZTA did confirm that the policy work had recommenced on it. Unstated was that the whole thing was too controversial before the election but that it was OK for them to start work on it again now. But you will recall that there was a significant opposition to this proposal – and in a democracy this needs to considered before just going ahead with it even if people like you and me think it is an obviously good idea.

    Sadly I do also recall from my childhood that a friend from school did crash his bike into an elderly pedestrian on the footpath and she died because of the injuries she sustained. So it is not all about how much safer it is for the cyclists to be on the footpath. There are plenty of elderly pedestrians who have a real reason to fear cycles on their footpaths.

  17. The real issue is we need the law changed. Not the complainant’s attitude or the advertising standards board. The person complaining sure came back with a good set of arguments which was hard for them to deflect. I agree let’s complain more about the car ads more in the meantime.

  18. The Paxter ‘car’ they use looks like a practical solution to the shift to more parcels and less letters being delivered. The issue I have is these weigh about 400kg + 200kg load + driver. The speed they are being used at they are not suitable for the footpath and should stick to the road.

  19. Enough of this! Time for Stop de Kindermoord, I say! It should start with another Harbour Bridge protest. This time and going forward no more canceling protests just because AT says ‘okay, we’ll plan it a bit more’.

    I implore you folks to watch this relevant documentary ‘Stop Killing Our Children’, which goes into the history of the Stop de Kindermoord national protests:

    1. Thanks Brandon, that was a powerful documentary. But over the decades I have seen many such hard-hitting attempts to shine light on this absurd blind-spot in our society, but all seem to fall on deaf ears. 50 years ago as a teenager into cycling and public transport, my eyes were opened to the crazy negative effects of our addiction to motor transport. I was always buoyed by the hope that, surely in 10 or 20 or 30 years people will wake up and things will change! I am still waiting. Sure, some things have improved but there are now more cars than ever and their dominance and damage continues to worsen. Most people still either have their rose-tinted specs on, or remain wedded to cars with no vision of an alternative, but I continue continue to live in hope. Surely in another 10, 20, 30 years people will wake up!

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