German cycling safety campaign being called sexist and stupid

An advertising campaign by Germany’s Transport Ministry to get cyclists to wear helmets is being called stupid and has sparked accusations of sexism. The cycling safety campaign, which reportedly cost CDN$590,000 features models wearing just a helmet and their underwear along with the tagline: “Looks like shit. But saves my life.”

Transport Minister, Andreas Scheuer said the campaign is meant to counter the notion that helmets are unattractive — something studies have cited as one reason why young people don’t wear them while riding.

“It’s all about getting noticed,” said the Minister at the official unveiling.

"Look's like shit. But saves my life."

The posters have certainly got people noticing them. Although the focus has been less on the helmets and more on the lack of other clothing worn by the models, and on the language used — which many consider vulgar.

German Cycling Safety Campaign

Swift reaction to Germany’s cycling safety campaign

Images of the cycling safety campaign quickly spread on social media, prompting revived discussions about sexism in cycling, as well as some confusion over the intended messaging. However, some have even gone so far as saying that the campaign fails the definition of sexism because it features a diverse group of models of both sexes.

German Cycling Safety Campaign

Unfortunately for the Transport Minister, the campaign also soon became something of a political battle:

“It is embarrassing, stupid and sexist for the transport minister to be selling his policies using naked skin,” Maria Noichl, an MEP and the chairwoman of Germany’s Social Democrats women’s wing, told Bild am Sonntag. 

The Family Minister, Franziska Giffey, joined her by saying a few harsh words about the Andreas Scheuer and of the conservative CSU party. Later she posted a picture of herself rocking a business suit and a helmet while riding her bicycle, writing: “Dear Andreas Scheuer: fully dressed also goes well with a helmet!”

Defending the campaign, a Transport Ministry spokesman said: “A successful road safety campaign should jolt people and can be polarizing.”

German Cycling Safety Campaign
"Look's like shit. But saves my life."

Regardless of people’s criticisms of the cycling safety campaign, injuries to cyclists have become a problem in Germany with 432 cyclists dying in accidents in 2018, according to ADAC, a German automobile association. That’s 50 more than in 2017. In Germany, cyclists aren’t required to wear a helmet and 40 percent of riders under age 30 don’t even own one. More concerning, only 8 percent of riders aged 17 to 30 wear one, according to a poll commissioned by the Transport Ministry.

What are your thoughts on this cycling safety campaign? Do you think it achieves its goal or is it simply a sexist attempt at advertising? Share your thoughts on social media or in the comments below.