Two videos appeared, one called Think Horse and one called Name.
Also interestingly a slide show providing an overview of the campaign appeared as well here. It's well worth a look, and something I'll no doubt comment on later this week.
I'm going to focus on one of the videos, the one called Name. Hopefully the reason will become clear. By not mentioning 'Think Horse' I'm not suggesting it is a good advert, just that it isn't quite as bad. In fact my wife was particularly annoyed by it, having ridden horses a lot in the past, but it doesn't, in my mind, quite reach the levels of Name.
I must admit, I find it really hard to know where to start with this one. Let me start with another video.
If you hung on until the end you'll hear I made a joke with a driver.
I thought it was only cyclists who run red lights
I made that joke because, drivers generally have the perception that it is indeed only cyclists that run red lights, and so catching a driver blatantly doing it was funny to us both.
But it isn't funny, certainly not for cyclists. What is funny is that I could, if I had the inclination....I don't.... I could be publishing videos aplenty of cars cutting through lights late, sneaking through early, or when they think they can get away with it, going through on a blatant red.
Do cyclists go through red? Of course they do, but many studies have shown that not only do far fewer cyclists run reds than you might suspect, but that often the proportion of drivers doing it is higher. That's not even mentioning the relative differences in risk when you compare cyclists and drivers doing it.
So this begs the question, why does this campaign focus on the issue of red light jumping cyclists, and not red light jumping drivers, or for that matter mobile phone using drivers, or speeding drivers, or drunk drivers or.....
There are a number of reasons, but I think the main reason is 'Clutching at Straws Syndrome'
I know for a fact that the campaign brief stipulated that it had to include all road users. I know that this brief did not come from research up, but from top down. This campaign could not just focus on the poor hard done by, over taxed, stressed car driver. Car drivers wouldn't like that, and it would therefore loose votes (there are still more car drivers than cyclists, remember).
It was easy to come up with things that would target the drivers in relation to cycle safety. Close passes, tailgating, left hooks, pulling out in front of cyclists at junctions etc. In fact there were too many, so Cycling Scotland fell back onto what they knew best. Close passes. They had after all had very successful campaign in 'Give me Cycle Space'.....ahem.
But what of these damn cyclists. Hmmm. Unfortunately, when it comes to 'mutual risk' cyclists don't really place drivers in much risk, as I described here. There is no mutual risk. So in a campaign that required 'balance' the powers that be had to find something that would at the very least annoy drivers about cyclists.
Red Light Jumping (RLJng).
The straws had been well and truly clutched.
Ask a driver, one who has never cycled except at Centre Parcs, what the most annoying thing that cyclists do, and RLJing would be at the top. Sure, wearing Lycra, being faster through busy traffic and at the same time causing traffic jams would also be high up there, but it would be very hard to justify a campaign based on those, even for the Scottish Government. So RLJing it was.
RLJing provided balance and Keith knew that he wouldn't loose the car drivers vote in the referendum as a result. Phew. But the government plan was far more wicked. They knew that this was controversial. They knew that some campaigns would go for it and some would not. They could split the cycling opposition and keep drivers happy all at the same time. Brilliant.
Unfortunately, it doesn't end there though. Imagine you are that car driver, with no interest or knowledge of cycling. You don't hate cyclists, but they are a bit annoying. Then you see the series of adverts. It doesn't have any great effect on you, but it's in the back of your mind. Then you come across an article online somewhere saying..
Cyclists annoyed at portrayal of cyclists running red lights in otherwise wonderful government campaign.
Eh? But they do run red lights. They are really annoying and they shouldn't do that. Damn I think I hate those cyclists.
The plan is complete.
Not only does this advert perpetuate the myth that cyclists are lawless no-gooders who freeload on society, it has the potential to set cycling campaigning back several years due to the very understandable reaction that it will generate among us campaigners. This advert is not only bad and poorly focused, it is a bloody disaster for those of us who have been campaigning for years to get rid of the 'us and them' mentality. It places a wedge firmly between us.
Should we continue to campaign against this marketing crap? Yes we should. We should though, also be aware that significant damage has already been done. I just hope that there is still a chance that my chilren will be around to see a happier safer, more environmentally friendly, healthier Scotland.
I'm just a lot less optimistic than I was before this whole episode started.