27 November 2009

Volkswagen Protects Your Car Against the Cyclist Onslaught

VW advert - Car Culture

The Car Empire strikes back again. My friend Troels found this Volkswagen advert in an glossy book about great advertising campaigns from around the world.

In it, Volkswagen are keen to show off various features on their cars. In this case, Energy-Absorbing Door Padding.

To illustrate this exciting feature, they highlight one of the great irritations that motorists face in the urban environment, visible at just left of centre in the photo.

Fortunately for the motorist getting out of his fine vehicle he has invested in German engineering to reduce potential damage to his vehicle. Nevermind that he didn't bother to check his mirror before getting out or that the inattentive man on the bicycle risks injury from what we are led to assume will be an imminent collison. Energy-absorbing door padding will save the car from too much damage.

How does the esteemed panel of readers feel about this photograph/campaign? It's clearly 'ignoring the bull' and placing responsibility on the vulnerable traffic user, no doubt about it. But does it piss anyone off or is it acceptable?

Funny, if this happened in Denmark or Holland, the motorist would be at fault if a collison occured. Then again, the cyclist would have been provided with safe urban mobility on wide, separated bicycle infrastructure intelligently placed to the right of the car, with ample room for a door zone.

Here in Denmark, when driving with my kids, the mantra they most often hear when in a car is "watch out for bikes!" when we are parked and are getting out of the vehicle. If only I had 10 kroner for every time I've said it to my son over the past seven years... And we are rarely in cars.

As a result, he has learned to open the door a crack and peer out to see if the coast is clear of bikes before opening the door further. Volkswagen must despise people like us who don't wish to test doors against impact.


Anonymous said...

No, that ad really pisses me off!

workbike said...

Interesting it's an ad to US drivers. In Germany the driver would be at fault as well- I had it drilled into me when I took my driving test.

I'd say it insults drivers:
"We know you're too dumb to do basic stuff like mirrors, so we make our cars idiot-proof. For idiots like you"

Lee said...

Here in Chicago the driver is at fault, not sure about the rest of the US, though.

Anonymous said...

In, Oregon, USA, the driver is also at fault. That means nothing though to those that feel driving is an entitlement and that bikes are a nuisence.

Frits B said...

I would say the ad is meant to be humorous. VW often ridicules drivers in its publicity, "that's why we have learnt to make our cars so safe".

m e l i g r o s a said...

oh my LMAO.
and @workbike: "We know you're too dumb to do basic stuff like mirrors, so we make our cars idiot-proof. For idiots like you"
couldnt be better said.

Now if we could also blame us for running into Jwalkers and be spilled hot coffee on us, because we bikes are 'reckless'.... baaah!

Alan said...

Here in Alberta, Canada, the driver is also at fault.

Even if it is meant to be funny, it is not really. It just highlights the way that drivers see anyone else on or near the road: pesky obstacles, something to be avoided lest it damage the paint. The cyclist in the picture is a road-hazard, like a pothole or a rock, not a person.

When will cars start including 'safety features' that are to protect the other road users and not necessarily the car's driver.

Klaus Mohn said...

nothing says "i'm a careless jerk" like a fully open door as pictured on the ad. i'm surprised they didn't picture it to be double-parked. other than that, i really don't know what their message is. it's a puzzling ad to me.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about legally culpable, but there are things a cyclist should do in this scenario. You should be a good bit more than an arm's length from parked cars when passing. If prevailing traffic conditions, road design or design of cycling infrastructure prevent you from attaining this distance, you should slow right down so that you have time to react to the unwary and careless opening doors.

The ad is detestable.

Anneke said...

I really don't think this kind of thing would happen in the Netherlands (let alone an ad about it). Driving lessons are not how you handle the car, but how you handle traffic and that does not mean cars only, but mainly bikes and peds. Thankfully situations like these are very very rare here. the cyclist wouldn't have to look at the car at the far left about to pass him way too close, he would have a wide path.

Dan The Man said...

This ad makes me glad I sold my VW Golf
this year to be carfree.

Also, here in Boston there's a $100 ticket for "dooring"
I've had people actually try to door me maliciously after getting cutoff by them.

Anonymous said...

How about this one: If the door sensed it should not be opened it would slam itself shut, hopefully not back into the driver's leg.

If someone's gonna get injured, let it be the jerk who caused the problem.

Nico said...

I love this site, but I think you're going taking your hate for cars too far here (sometimes I feel like I'm the only cyclist in the world who doesn't have a problem with cars, and even actually enjoy them).

The first thing I thought when seeing the ad was "wow, VW is doing something nice for cyclists". Whether you're in a car, a bicycle or on foot, accidents happen. If VW does something so that the effects of an accident are lessened, then props to them.

Mikael said...

i've been driving my entire adult life, nico. i don't hate them at all.

I just don't like the fact that they turn so many people into killers because they're so dangerous and i don't like the fact that the car industry is not required to highlight this fact.

i don't think you get the ad. it's not a feature to make collisons with cyclists less severe. it's irony. it's taking the piss.

SteveL said...

1. In the US, the rules about bicycles keeping to the right are far stronger, if the cyclist was in the lane to the left -which is the obvious place to be, the cars behind would be upset.

2. Its a pre-2004 VW golf, so an old advert.

3. Having been doored. It does really hurt.

4. I recently filed a complaint againt a BMW advert with the UK advertising standards authority, picking on their Joy of GPS claims. I got a letter back last week telling me to go away. I'm escalating it with the Association of Computing Machinery Risks list, those computer scientists and software engineers who worry about people who come to depend on software that does really work that well. It will be interesting to see if we can make any headway here.

juffles said...

Mikael - I have to agree with Nico here. A lot of your 'ignoring the bull' posts are coming across as rabid anti-car rage, which is a real change from your usual 'hooray for bikes!' tone.

If you recognise that the ad is taking the piss out of silly car drivers who don't look, why are you getting bent out of shape about it? I can't see where it's shifting the blame for the implied collision onto the cyclist.

Peter said...

Pisses me off, too.

To the poster above who says we bicyclists are required to stay to the right: not true! You are to ride as far to the right as is safe and practible. Riding in the "door zone" is definitely not safe. I never ride in that position when passing parked cars.

In our area, we put any bike lanes too close to parked cars. Unless you ride on the outer line of the bike lane, you are in danger of dooring.

Unfortunately, putting the bicycle lane to the right of parked cars increases the intersection danger. That is a much more serious risk than dooring.

So it's a rock and an hard place.

BTW - in both Philadelphia and all of NJ, the driver would be at fault. But who trusts drivers to check? Some really serious enforcement and high fines might help, though.

(As opposed to what is going on in Philly, where they want to increase bicycle fines 100x because two pedestrians were killed by bicyclists in one month, with one a hit and run).

Kevin Love said...

Here in Ontario, the motorist would be not only civilly liable, but has committed a criminal offense.

From section 165 of Ontario's "Highway Traffic Act":

Opening of doors of motor vehicles

165. No person shall,

(a) open the door of a motor vehicle on a highway without first taking due precautions to ensure that his or her act will not interfere with the movement of or endanger any other person or vehicle; or

(b) leave a door of a motor vehicle on a highway open on the side of the vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than is necessary to load or unload passengers



mu said...

I couldn't find a large copy of the ad to read all the text, but from what I can see, it seems to be saying that they've engineered the car to protect the cyclist, not the car itself.

Yes, the driver should have looked first. But designing a car to protect others than just the occupants seems pretty progressive to me. It appears that VW has been adding the "energy absorbing foam" to a number of areas in their cars including in bumpers to limit injury to pedestrians.

I'll agree that perfect drivering would eliminate most accidents. But I don't quite understand the argument tht this is somehow anti-bike.

William said...

Wether the drivers are jerks or not, this is the kind of thing that is bound to happen. it's nice if it doesn't happen to often, and it's nice if it doesn't happen to me, but nomatter how responsible people are, mistakes are always made.

Isn't it nice that WV has changed it's car, so that when you make a mistake, others do not have to suffer as much?

I realize that this ad is open to interpretation, but I'm one of these ironically and sarcastically defunct people you hear about. I just don't see it.

(I do wonder how shock-absorbing this material really is - it'd be more efficient to design the door to fall off, or swing all the way around)

Just a cyclist said...

Probably a great technical invention for protecting those doors from cyclists.

Its particularly convenient in places like central Stockholm, where the narrow bicycle lanes are practically and strategically laid between the car lane and the parking lane.


Marky Rotten said...

Marky Rotten sez... This is pretty f'ed up

Maria Boustead said...

At first, I thought this ad was a hoax. Then I laughed. I really don't think it is meant to be taken so seriously. Lighten up people! Not every car company is out to kill you.

tedsfiles said...

I've been doored, and this ad did *not* make me laugh. Especially as recently, in the media people have been hinting at this kind of thing. You may not know, but Sydney is not the only city that hates bikes in Australia.
It shows how eco minded VW really is. Diesel is as friendly to the environment as drinking cyanide. Has anyone stood behind a diesel truck or car and had a nice sniff? It makes you feel instantly sick.