THINK! campaign releases new film to deluge of critical feedback

26 September 2016

The government’s “THINK!” road safety campaign today released a new video and a new message in a supposed attempt “to reduce the number of deaths”.

The message is to “hang back”, and it is communicated by way of the following video.

The video has been near-universally panned online, however (including by West Midlands Police) because it appears to show a “left hook” manoeuvre; where a driver overtakes and then turns left, leaving the rider nowhere to go. In other words, it shows a collision which is not the fault of the rider and over which they have very little control, and therefore where the message of the film is impotent.

Once the scene has been set by images ranging from the aggressive (boxing) through the surreal (a falling piano) to what some considered distasteful (meat being butchered), the viewer is shown a rather odd sequence of events.

First the rider is shown seemingly passing the lorry to its nearside. (Note that the lorry driver is not indicating to turn left, and is driving on the wrong side of the carriageway: the placement of the on-road “20” signage indicates that this is a two-way road. Edit: it is, it’s Monier Road in East London.)

think-hang-back-1

This is a manoeuvre which, whilst not strictly illegal, is understandably disadvised—notwithstanding the fact that separate cycle lanes often appear in this exact location. But it’s also a manoeuvre which, on a free-flowing road such as the one shown, is extremely unlikely because of the normal speeds of each vehicle, which makes this section of the film appear very contrived.

The circumstances in which such passing would ordinarily occur are where flow is restricted and traffic is moving slowly, and the Highway Code has clear guidance regarding this: for instance, rule 151 says that “in slow-moving traffic you should be aware of cyclists and motorcyclists who may be passing on either side”.

The next cut in the sequence, however, shows the HGV clearly moving faster than the bicycle. The driver is now indicating left and pulls across in front of the rider.

think-hang-back-2

Again it is possible to point out Highway Code guidance. Rule 182 is very clear: “Do not overtake just before you turn left…watch out for traffic coming up on your left…cyclists in particular may be hidden from your view.”

rule-182

The film-makers now allow all their metaphors to reach their conclusion: the boxer is right-hooked (missing an obvious trick, there), the piano explodes, the meat is cleaved, and so on. And we are left with the final shot of the collision scene, with the overall style of the film highly reminiscent of Top Gear’s deliberately confrontational efforts.

think-hang-back-3

Unfortunately, when anyone is injured or killed by a left turning HGV driver, the public’s assumption—and this can be seen clearly in comments on the web whenever this is reported—is that the victim must have consciously put themselves in this position. It rarely seems to occur to people that it often happens by way of a left hook, and this film serves only to cement that narrow and prejudicial view.

The THINK! campaign has been criticised previously on Beyond The Kerb, for harmful messaging to children and for backing ill-considered messages.

Some commenters have pointed out the ASA’s online complaint form.

Comments

  1. Mark Treasure 26 September 2016 12:31pm #

    The intention of the video is clearly to show someone on a bike ‘undertaking’ a lorry. But the presentation is incoherent.

    In the first clip we see a lorry travelling fast, on the wrong side of the road, yet with the cyclist managing to travel faster, on the inside. It is not at all clear how this situation could have arisen. Not just because of the relative speeds, as you mention, but particularly, why is the lorry already travelling on the wrong side of the road, at such speed? The only (totally implausible) explanation I can come up with is that the HGV is attempting an overtake, and then, mid-overtake, the person cycling decides to speed up, managing to cycle faster than an accelerating HGV.

    Then, in the second clip, despite the relative speeds shown in the first clip, the person cycling is still, somehow, behind the HGV as it swerves left. Again, this is uncomfortable. Either the person cycling was going faster, and cleared the HGV before the junction; or the HGV driver’s attempted overtake couldn’t be completed.

    This second clip, taken in isolation, is an awful left hook, with the driver responsible. So the bizarre first clip is clearly an attempt to load some responsibility onto the person cycling, but in a totally implausible way.

    It’s a mess.

    • Jitensha Oni 28 September 2016 7:43pm #

      Thanks to you and @Hackneycyclist for the location. Here’s another view:

      https://goo.gl/maps/5KMvGkps5ZR2

      At the start of the video the cab of the truck is past the tree on the right and, being generous, straddling the lanes. Even if the cyclist hung back, supposing a vehicle came round the corner from the right? Maybe it’s because that happened that the scenario depicted occurred. Very poor driving of the HGV. Surely the DfT can’t condone that.

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