Is this PSA any good?

Several years ago, the NYC Pedestrian Safety Council produced cartoon ads that appeared frequently on TV in the NYC area. The ads urged children to “walk at the green, not in between” which worked well enough in NYC, since they have short blocks in a grid pattern and almost every intersection has traffic lights.

But what I don’t think the NYC people knew or cared about was that the same TV stations that aired those PSA’s reached out a hundred miles in all directions  to  millions more people that didn’t live in NYC, and out in the hinterland of suburbia, in upper New York State, Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut where green traffic lights (never mind pedestrian signals) were few and far between.

This gave license to motorists to mow down pedestrians by being able to say, “See, they didn’t walk the distance to the light (and that could be miles), so they are wrong to try and cross there. Walk at the green, not in between”

I am totally serious that this argument was and is still being  made. Even today you will hear “Cross at the green, not in between” used as a defense (or more likely as a taunt)  of crazy driving. It has become a bit of pop culture.

So now there is new PSA brought to us by a whole consortium of councils and associations about cycling. Tell me, does it “do” as little for you as it does for me?


Rather than make a new post, I added to this one.

From Alaska, here is another one that makes me crazy.

25 replies
  1. Keri
    Keri says:

    This one’s been making the rounds. It fits in the “dancing bear” category, only without subtlety and cleverness. More externalizing of safety. Only, this thing is fear-factor amplified. All it does is scare people, and reinforce the superstition that cycling on the road is dangerous.

    Wouldn’t it be cool if cyclists were as attracted to messages about how they can be safe and avoid crashes?

    When we look at the data we find that cyclists can prevent ~90% of the crashes. Even the ones that are the motorists’ fault. That doesn’t mean motorists shouldn’t pay more attention. But if we can change a few things ourselves and solve a lot of our own problems, it seems a wasteful diversion to keep trying to get everyone else to change first. The people who have the most interest in our safety is us. And we have a hell of a lot more control over our own safety than most cyclists exercise.

  2. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    It looks like something that would be put together by people who don’t cycle and didn’t think it necessary to find out. It’s a video cousin to the occasional newspaper “wear a helmet and stay away from cars” article that comes along.

    What surprised me is that when I went to the website, it appeared to have at least a couple of organizations of actual cyclists affiliated with it, along with the usual crazy combo of car haters and motorist groups.

    Shame on them. Wouldn’t it be cool if cycling groups didn’t associate themselves with such useless and fear mongering messages?

  3. Eric
    Eric says:

    >organizations of actual cyclists affiliated with it, along with the usual crazy combo of car haters and motorist groups.<

    Got my point.

  4. Rantwick
    Rantwick says:

    Yep, this one ticks me off because all it does heighten people’s sense of “cycling danger”. Keri already said that.

    Signing off,


  5. Rantwick
    Rantwick says:

    Disclaimer: I’ve had a few beers. With so many choices, it’s no wonder that some cycling groups lose their way and back counter-productive stuff. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all just call for smooth pavement and some money to teach people how to ride safely and leave it at that?

  6. Keri
    Keri says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could all just call for smooth pavement and some money to teach people how to ride safely and leave it at that?

    Rantwick for President!

    Smooth pavement, cycling education and beer. Now that’s a platform I can get behind!


  7. Rantwick
    Rantwick says:

    Please note: As a Canadian citizen I can not be your president. Please also note that I have had several more beers. I’m going to bed.

    Thanks as Always,


  8. ChipSeal
    ChipSeal says:

    It is no longer so clear that you have to be born in the United States to be President…

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could all just call for smooth pavement and some money to teach people how to ride safely and leave it at that?

    Rantwick for Prime Minister!

    Smooth pavement, cycling education and beer. Now that’s a platform I can get behind!


    You run on that platform, and I’ll become a Canadian to support you. But you’ll have to let those Québécois secede, eh?

  9. Laura
    Laura says:

    They have better beer in Canada too!

    I must have lived a sheltered life because I don’t remember that ‘cross on green not in-between’ slogan and I grew up in south florida, practically a suburb of NYC.

    At any rate, I too have been really frustrated here in FL that the attitude prevails that peds are often at fault for their own deaths. Our bus stops are often located mid-block and crossing at a light can mean 1/4 mile detour in one direction. It’s a huge problem here. I always want to know more details – what were the lighting conditions, how fast was the car travelling, where was the pedestrian trying to cross, etc.

    Can’t really add more to the discussion on the new PSA announcement than what’s already been said. Rantwick for Pres/Prime Minister!

  10. Keri
    Keri says:

    Ah crash cause curiosity… I have it too. You’ll find the new FAR site a total tease. Google-earth mapping of crashes with nary a clue more about what happened.

    Our pedestrian access problems are 100 times worse than our bicycle access problems here. They’re a nasty combo of bad infrastructure and bad behavior. We can educate a cyclist to operate safely on a 6-lane arterial. Not that we should have to use one to get where we’re going — that’s a problem — but at least we can. Peds, OTOH have serious problems on those roads. As Laura and Eric both pointed out, an intersection crossing can require 1/4 mile or more of extra walking and then they get there and get dissed by turning traffic to the point they have to run to get across before the light changes. What’s the incentive to walk a 1/4 mile for that?

  11. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    What Keri says goes double in North Texas. We keep our pedestrians in cages around here, just on general principles. I’ll post a picture over on dfwptp when I get a chance. It illustrates a “pedestrian cage.” It’s getting hot here so maybe I’ll get energetic & even do it today.

    Unlike cyclists, such as ChipSeal, pedestrians are rarely hunted down with dogs in Texas… 😉

  12. Eric
    Eric says:

    >with nary a clue more about what happened.<

    Did you click the icons? They say the date, time how many cars or if a pedestrian was involved. The hot button issues that interests them. I see that a cyclist was killed on Bumby.

  13. Keri
    Keri says:

    Yeah, I clicked on the icon… I guess you can piece a few clues together… on the ones that say an intersection was involved, you can assume it was a crossing/turning crash. I was annoyed with this vague description which appeared on all the ones I clicked:

    “Manner of Collision—Not Collision with Motor Vehicle in Transport”

    WTF does that mean?

    And they all say 1 vehicle involved. Yet, a bicycle is a vehicle.

    This website is far more interesting for crash-cause-curious minds.

  14. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Rantwick wrote:
    “Please note: As a Canadian citizen I can not be your president…”

    Kevin’s comment:
    I’m a Canadian citizen and CAN be the president of the USA. I was born in California and I’m over 35 years old. I qualify!

    My platform: decent rail and cycle infrastructure, health care for all US citizens and reducing the number of US nuclear bombs to about 200 as part of a 60% cut in US military spending. No more automotive bailout – companies that are so badly managed that they go bankrupt go bankrupt.

    My slogan: Government for the people, not GM and the military-industrial complex.

  15. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Here’s my nomination for positive PSA bicycle safety video:

    Note how everything is normal and low-key. It assumes normal people cycle in normal clothing. There are no helmets, jerseys, lycra, spandex or any other “road warrior” equipment. None of that sort of stuff is even mentioned, except for the weird interpolated slide after the video is over. Looks like The Star’s editors freaked out.

  16. Keri
    Keri says:

    To promote that as a safety video is grossly irresponsible.

    That video contains the most dangerous thing I’ve ever seen in a cycling video—it’s the only on-bike clip. It’s so stunningly stupid, it overshadows all the other flaws and oversights in the “safety” video.

    If one is going to make a safety video, it’s appropriate to include at least a few of the common mistakes that get cyclists killed. Like staying out of the door zone (which she doesn’t) and not passing on the right in intersections and understanding the blind spots and turning radii of trucks. She talks about a tail light, but not a headlight. ??? 95% of crashes happen in FRONT of a cyclist. But flowers make her more visible.

    After explaining how to cross streetcar tracks, she proceeds to ride TOTALLY in the door zone sandwiched between parked cars and parallel tracks! If she swerves to avoid a door, or pedestrian, she will snag the rail track and get thrown into the middle of the travel lane and be run over.

    The pedestrian info was good. But kinda make you think cyclists spend a lot of time among pedestrians in Toronto.

    I find it disturbing that you think normal and low key is more important than giving people information that might save their lives. Let’s just gloss it over. Their families can cry for them when they get run over by trucks. And if we play our cards right no one will ever know that is a completely preventable crash type… if the cyclist had just been INFORMED instead of LURED.

    Fear-mongering is not necessary to promote safe behavior. But understanding risks and how to avoid them is essential to keeping cyclists safe.

  17. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    You’re right. If one looks carefully, there’s about 1 1/2 seconds of a door-zone riding scene. Tsk, tsk. I’ll have to twit Yvonne about that when I see her next.

    As to everything else, if one were to make a video with everything in it that I think should be in, it would be a lot longer than what The Star is going to go for. That’s editing. No matter what one puts in or out it is always possible to criticise the choice.

    You’re right about cyclists spending a lot of time among pedestrians in Toronto. There are many intersections that I go through in which the pedestrian traffic is several times that of the car traffic. I’ve seen a lot of cyclists being inconsiderate of pedestrians. It’s an issue we’re struggling to deal with. Unfortunately, the human race has a certain percentage of obnoxious jerks. When they get on a bike there’s going to be problems.

    Commuter mode share: Riding of Toronto Centre in 2006

    38% – Public transit
    34% – Bicycle and walking
    28% – Car: passenger or driver

    Most of the “public transit” will also be walking a block or two to get to their final destination, so the pedestrian density is high.

  18. Keri
    Keri says:

    I really did like the emphasis on courtesy and yielding to pedestrians. I want to see more of that. Especially in places where motorist conformity to ped laws has been achieved, I see cyclists acting as though the law doesn’t apply to them. I stopped for a pedestrian at a crosswalk in Salsalito last summer and had a female cyclist nearly run over me and the pedestrian. She squeezed between me and the car beside me (that was also yielding) at a marked crosswalk. She had to know we were stopped for that reason.

  19. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Florida law requires that vehicle operators stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, both marked and unmarked. I know I’m not saying anything new. I met today with Kent and Katy, this crazy dad and daughter couple who biked from Texas to Florida. Her mom was along driving the family van and told me they wanted to cross over to the beach, standing in a crosswalk and were very disappointed to find no motorists stopped or slowed. I think few of us would be surprised at this behavior.

    Parts of A1A have raised medians, while other sections are dual-left-turn areas, spaced closely enough to keep motorists from using them as a passing zone. The raised section is cut for “pedestrian safety” areas. As I pedaled on A1A yesterday, I saw a family cross into this area and stopped in my lane. The vehicle operator behind me had to stop, obviously, but what really surprised me was that the second lane vehicle operator also stopped to allow the family to cross, along with foot traffic in the other direction. I think more than a few people learned something yesterday, if only for a brief moment.

    It truly made my day.

  20. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Whenever I’m in Florida as a pedestrian I’ll try a Toronto culture trick. At a pedestrian crosswalk I’ll raise my right arm and point across the road.

    This seems to convey the message “I’m not just hanging out here, but want to cross.” So I seem to get a higher compliance rate. I’ve been in Naples so much that I seem to have trained some of the car drivers what to expect.

    That’s the “official” way to do it here. See:

  21. Keri
    Keri says:

    Yes. That technique is shown in the Metroplan Orlando pedestrian video. It is just about the only way to get compliance here.

    It’s certainly more effective than standing on the corner staring at your feet, which is what most peds do here. They’ve been beaten into submission.

    A friend moved here 10 years ago from Portland and damn near got himself killed several times trying to cross the street. He thought he could just step off the curb into a crosswalk and motorists would yield. Rude awakening. Crosswalks are meaningless here except to the motorists who regard them as target ranges.

  22. ChipSeal
    ChipSeal says:

    Rude awakening. Crosswalks are meaningless here except to the motorists who regard them as target ranges.

    Never mind how well motorists comply with that traffic device, when we put magik paint down to provide for childlike cyclists, motorists will obey them!

  23. Keri
    Keri says:

    Yeowsa! That PSA with the girl on the sidewalk is terrible! Andy at Carbon Trace made a very important point (follow the link in the comment above) — when the people who make these PSA are designing the infrastructure, be afraid, be very afraid.

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