$400K cycling ad campaign won’t work, says campaigner
The government’s $400,000 ad campaign aimed at reducing cycle deaths is a waste of money, says Clive Matthew-Wilson, editor of the car review website dogandlemon.com.
The bus, billboard and radio campaign features images of everyday cyclists wearing T-shirts labelling them as someone's loved one, such as a son, father or aunt (see image above right).
"The campaign is designed to personalise and humanise people cycling so motorists see them as real people who have a right to share the road safely," says NZ Transport Agency spokesman Ewart Barnsley.
"With their backs to the drivers and a helmet on, cyclists can look like silhouettes and drivers don't usually see their faces. We want to remind drivers when they are on the road that cyclists are everyday people just like them."
Mr Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says, “Let me be perfectly clear: almost every credible study ever done has concluded that road safety ads don’t work.”
The highly respected American Institute for Highway Safety collated the results of 30 years of scientific studies of the effectiveness of road safety advertising, and concluded:
“Research indicates that education has no effect, or only a very limited effect, on habits like staying within speed limits, heeding stop signs, and using safety belts.”
“[Until you check out the facts,] who can argue against the benefits of education or training?” asks Institute chief scientist Allan Williams. “But when good scientific evaluations are undertaken, most of the driver improvement programs based on education or persuasion alone are found not to work.”
ABOVE: The NZTA's "Mistakes" anti-speeding ad has gone viral on YouTube, clocking more than 4.2 million views since it was posted January 5. Commentator David Farrar says it is "An excellent ad, and much better use of resources than their billboard campaign to remind people that they share the road with others."
Dr Terry Macpherson, a lecturer in marketing at Massey University, agrees, saying "Advertising is a great way of getting people to do what they already want to do, such as buy hamburgers. However, ads telling people not to do something generally only work if the person watching the ad is already on your side. An example is anti drug campaigns for teenagers, which have been running for decades. On paper, they make perfect sense. In the real world, most studies show they make little or no difference at all.”
Mr Matthew-Wilson says the biggest tragedy about ad campaigns such as the one the government is running, is that they give the illusion that something is being done about the problem, when, often, it’s not.
“Cyclists are among the most vulnerable of road users. Every single one of my friends who cycle regularly has had a potentially-fatal clash with a motor vehicle.”
“The only real way to protect cyclists from this carnage is to separate them from motorists. Cycle lanes are a good start, but ultimately, there needs to be a physical barrier between cyclists and car users, so the two can’t collide.”
Mr Matthew-Wilson says the major problem is that road planners tend to see cyclists as a nuisance rather than legitimate road users.
“Road planners tend to see the road as a pipe: the more vehicles you fit through the pipe, the better. However, this sort of road planning inevitably causes competition between motorists and cyclists. The end result is multiple deaths, countless injuries, and a population that is increasingly scared to ride bicycles on public roads.
“It’s time for the government to stop treating cyclists as a nuisance and instead to start treating cyclists as valued citizens who ease congestion, reduce pollution and save fuel. Apart from the weather, the main downside to cycling is the road conditions that the cyclists have to endure.”