Safety Ads Seek to Humanize Cyclists

Compared with people who drive cars, those of us who ride bicycles are more exposed on the streets — in more ways than one. First, we are not shielded by several tons of metal. Second, we are more visible. That is, the sum of us – our faces, our bodies, our limbs – can be seen compared with glimpses of drivers through car widows.

There’s a paradox in the latter, because drivers both see and don’t see us. They are aware of our presence, yes, but often more as a category of street user — cyclist — than as individuals, who might be part of their lives.

Focus on Humanity

A new safety campaign wants drivers to know that the person pedaling that bike is neighbor, a friend, a family member who happens to ride a bicycle.

It’s an effort to look beyond generalizations to human qualities and to encourage good behavior by motorists and bike riders, launched recently by PeopleforBikes, the national not-for-profit organization of the bicycling industry that seeks to improve bicycling conditions in the United States. The group last week announced a milestone: Achievement of their goal to enlist 1 million Americans in a united front in support of safer, more enjoyable and more convenient bicycling. It’s part of an ambitious plan by the organization to grow bicycling fivefold in the next decade by enlisting grassroots support, improving infrastructure and elevating the image of bicycling. (You can add your voice to the movement by signing this online petition.)

Everybody Knows Someone Who Rides a Bike

The new “Travel with Care” campaign has roots in a similar effort called “Drive with Care” that was launched by the advocacy organization Bike Pittsburgh in reaction to series of fatalities among cyclists.

“In the wake of a series of fatal and near-fatal bike crashes caused by motorists, it was obvious from reading media comments that there was a serious disconnect between the general public and the bicycling community,” said Becca Susman, membership and outreach manager for Bike Pittsburgh, in a statement by PeopleforBikes. “At the heart of the message is the fact that everyone knows and cares about someone who rides a bike and everyone behind the wheel needs to do their part to keep us safe.”

Models from a variety of backgrounds are featured in the PeopleforBikes ads, ranging from an elementary school student to a chef. Some, like Rebecca Rusch and Tim Johnson (above), are well-known members of the cycling world, but you won’t see them here in their racing kits.

The new campaign is designed for outdoor display, on billboards and bus shelters, for example. PeopleforBikes will work with individual cities to localize the campaign using donated display space. So we may see them eventually in New York City, joining local initiatives such as the New York City Department of Transportation’s powerful Reckless Driving Kills public service ads in support of Vision Zero.

Photos: PeopleforBikes

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