Meadow Fresh milk advertisement banned from television for showing a girl riding a bike on footpath

Another version of the Meadow Fresh ad showed the girl walking to the dairy.
Another version of the Meadow Fresh ad showed the girl walking to the dairy. Photo credit: Screengrab

A Meadow Fresh commercial has been banned from television for "condoning an illegal practice" by showing a girl riding her bike on the footpath.

The advertisement, promoting Meadow Fresh Calci Original milk, showed a snippet of a young girl riding her bike on the pavement after purchasing a bottle of milk from the local dairy. 

A viewer, who first saw the commercial in September last year, lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) out of concern that the footage would encourage children to illegally ride their bike on the footpath.

Under the Land Transport (Road User) Rules, cycling on a footpath is illegal unless it is for the purpose of delivering mail or newspapers, or if the bike has a wheel diameter under 355mm, which mostly applies to toddlers' bikes and tricycles. 

"[Riding] a bicycle on a footpath... is against the law and dangerous as cars backing out can hit bikers, who are faster and less likely to hear the car," the complainant said.

"I know that some people are advocating that children should be allowed to ride bikes on footpaths, but as far as I am aware, the legislation is still in force. This is inappropriate of Meadow Fresh... [and] my concern is that this will confuse not only children, but parents, who will assume that it is ok to let their children break traffic rules and ride on footpaths, when it is not."

The complaint was initially dismissed by the Chair of the Complaints Board, who noted that the law in question is currently under review. However, the complainant appealed the ruling, citing a number of international studies which demonstrated the dangers of riding a bike on a footpath.

In their lengthy appeal application, the complainant wrote: "In conclusion, showing an advertisement with a child modelling behaviour that is dangerous, still illegal and completely irrelevant to the product being advertised is unacceptable and irresponsible.

"People seeing it will gather that this is fine, and expose their children, themselves or other users to physical harm."

The appeal was subsequently accepted by the Board as it was in the interests of natural justice.

The Complaints Board decided it had "no choice but to uphold the complaint" and ruled that the advertisement could not be used again.

It was ruled that the commercial had breached the Advertising Standards Code by failing to show "a due sense of social responsibility" and for "condoning an illegal practice".

The Board also referred to a previous decision regarding a televised advertisement for the Heart of Auckland, which showed a man cycling in the early hours of the morning without a helmet or rear light on his bike. At one stage he is also shown biking on the footpath. A complaint regarding that advertisement was also upheld.

In its response to the ASA, the advertiser - Goodman Fielder NZ Ltd - said they stood by their decision to show the young girl riding safely on the footpath. The advertiser argued that children are far less likely to be killed riding a bike on the pavement than on the road.

The advertiser confirmed the commercial was aired for the last time on November 7 and the company had no plans to air it again.