TfL’s cycling viral: genius or rip-off?

STORY UPDATED: Watch this video short commissioned by Transport for London, and produced by The Engine Room (warning: spoiler below):

This is a rip off. The original ‘gorilla and basketball passes’ video was produced in 1999 by Professor Daniel J Simons in the US. It’s sold as a DVD instructional video by Viscog Productions.

TfL’s version of the video uses a bear instead of a gorilla but this isn’t perhaps enough to prevent a claim of plagiarism. It’s interesting to note that a YouTube version of the Engine Room’s video was deleted by YouTube following a complaint, although it’s now back on the site.

Now, to the content. Why did the ad crew – who didn’t contact Prof Simons to ask permission to use the idea – switch to a moonwalking bear? All that was needed was a figure to walk between the basketball players. Why wasn’t this figure a cyclist in black kit and wearing a helmet? Not weird enough? That would at least have made the content fit the brief.

This video will go viral – known as Black Swanning in the ad trade – but will it work on drivers? It might raise consciousness for a while but then the bad habits will kick in again. Cyclists are “invisible” to drivers not because drivers have lots of distractions and need to concentrate on just the route ahead, but because cyclists cannot squish drivers. It’s a brute force thing.

When a car smashes into a cyclist in the UK and the US this will be traumatic for the driver – and perhaps fatal for the cyclist – but the long-term ramifications for the driver are few and far between.

Not so in many European countries where the EU Fifth European Motoring Directive holds sway. For insurance purposes, motorists are automatically deemed to be at fault in “traffic accidents” unless they can prove otherwise. This has the very real potential of hurting the driver in the pocketbook, the reason why there was such an outcry when the British media thought the UK could be about to adopt the Fifth European Motoring Directive.

Writing in the Daily Mirror, columnist and author Tony Parsons poured scorn on the Directive and lambasted adults who cycle: “Bicycles are for children…[they are] like masturbation – something you should grow out of. There is something seriously sick and stunted about grown men who want to ride a bike.”