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Service Announcements Serve Cycling Rules With Humor

By November 17, 2009October 18th, 2021No Comments

The New York Times: Service Announcements Serve Cycling Rules With Humor


Tuesday night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the pedestrian and cycling advocacy group Transportation Alternatives is showcasing more than 40 public service announcements about bicycling and bicycle safety.

The films, most no longer than 30 seconds, were culled from more than 80 entries in a contest to create a winning P.S.A. about one of the group’s “Biking Rules” for cyclists.

“The main ones were lights and bells, stopping at red lights and riding the wrong way,” said Caroline Samponaro, director of bicycle advocacy for Transportation Alternatives and the festival’s co-curator.

With more cyclists on New York City’s roads than ever before (Streetsblog reports a 66 percent increase in ridership over the last two years and a decline in bicycle fatalities), now may be the time for many new or returning cyclists to get reacquainted with the rules of the road and the bike path.

A panel of judges, ranging from a fashion designer to the anonymous Bike Snob, weighed the merits of a select 40 films and have voted on a winning spot, which will be announced at the event Tuesday night. The winning announcement will most likely be shown on local news stations like NY1; at events like Celebrate Brooklyn!, where Transportation Alternatives offers bike valet parking; and perhaps before feature films in the city’s movie theaters, according to Ms. Samponaro.

The winner will receive $4,000. Other prizes include Kona bicycles, a FlipHD video camera, bicycle-themed art by Taliah Lempert and a bicycle courier bag.

P.S.A.’s are somewhat notorious for going to extremes to make their point – sunnyside up fried eggs equated with brains on drugs, or New York City’s often gruesome smoking cessation ads. Even the city’s Department of Transportation’s recent foray into bicycling safety P.S.A.’s with its “Look” campaign employed images of a recently contused cyclist on a gurney.

“Some went on too long about haranguing drivers who door you,” Lela Rose, a fashion designer and a P.S.A. judge, said of the entries. Ms. Rose said she was impressed by the quality of the submissions. “I was expecting home video,” she said. Many entries have the slick production values of high-cost commercials.

Clarence Eckerson, a Biking Rules P.S.A. judge and director of video production at Streetfilms, agreed and said he was pleasantly surprised by the amount of humor in the competing P.S.A.s.

For those who didn’t get tickets to the event Tuesday night, which is sold out, Transportation Alternatives has released a selection of submissions, which can be seen in the video player here.

The selected films often rely on humor rather than hectoring or grisly imagery of crashes or accidents. The most violent of the selections is an animated film of a LEGO cyclist who runs a red light and then is blown apart by a LEGO truck before reassembling and riding off. The tag line is that “real cyclists can be put back together.”

“There were a couple of serious ones,” said Mr. Eckerson. “But the bulk of them were humorous.” He noted a number of funny submissions playing with “Ride Right,” one of the biking rules encouraging cyclists to ride in the direction of traffic. One submission equates petting a cat against its fur with riding down the street against traffic.

“The U.K. version of that would be deadly and scary,” said Mr. Eckerson referring to the United Kingdom’s often hard-hitting “Think” roadways campaign.

Another light-hearted approach to the wrong-way phenomenon is the “Pirates of Broadway” entry, which Colin Beavin, a.k.a. No Impact Man, a P.S.A. judge, said was one of his favorites.

The P.S.A. features a boatload of cyclist pirates fishing for obliviously pedaling “salmon,” a term perhaps coined and certainly popularized by the P.S.A. judge Bike Snob on his eponymous blog. Salmon riders, like their namesake fish, go against the stream of traffic and the law.

Mr. Beavin praised the inventiveness of the entries and their messages to cyclists: “These P.S.A.’s both made the point about the rules but also made biking seem really cool in New York City, which it really is.”

The winning P.S.A.will be available for viewing at on Wednesday Nov.18.