"Stale and sexist" cycling safety campaign shows models posing in underwear

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Anna Brech
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A woman riding a bike

German’s new helmet awareness campaign has prompted widespread anger 

A controversy has erupted in Germany this weekend, after the transport industry unveiled a campaign for cycling safety using images of scantily-clad women on bikes.

The awareness drive is fronted by an image of model Alicija Köhler, a contestant on Germany’s Next Topmodel, wearing lingerie and a cycling helmet with the English slogan, “looks like s**t. But saves my life.”

The main poster is accompanied by a number of other photos and video footage of female cyclists blowing kisses, dressed in just their underwear. 

The campaign features a few topless men, too, although the emphasis appears to be on the female models:

The country’s transport minister Andreas Scheuer said the campaign was intended to be shocking in order to grab people’s attention, and insisted it “conveys the message pretty well”. 

Amid growing protests over the gratuitous nature of the ads, he posted an image of himself on Instagram printing the billboards.

Maria Noichl, the chairperson of the Working Group of Social Democratic Women, is one of the politicians calling for the posters to come down.

“It is embarrassing, stupid and sexist for the transport minister to be selling his policies using naked skin,” she told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Katja Mast, the deputy leader of her party’s parliamentary group for women, also dismissed the campaign “embarrassing, stale and sexist”.

Posting to Facebook, Germany’s family minister, Franziska Giffey, offered her own fully dressed version of the advert, noting that helmets also go well when you’re not semi-naked:

Some commentators came to the transport ministry’s defence, branding the adverts “bold” and “innovative”. 

But, however you look at it, the campaign does little to help the status of female cyclists – amateur or professional – many of whom struggle to be taken seriously.

Earlier this month, Swiss cyclist Nicole Hanselmann was held back at a cycling event because she was about to overtake the men’s division.

This practice of a man being outstripped by a woman at an athletics event is known as “being chicked”, and is considered to be a problem by some male competitors – even in this day and age. 

Main image: Getty


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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.