Here They Are: DOT’s “Don’t Be a Jerk” PSAs

After a few months of intense build-up and anticipation, NYC DOT made the big reveal today and launched its “Don’t Be a Jerk” cycling etiquette campaign. We’ve been fiercely debating these PSAs on Streetsblog since before we ever saw them, but I’m going to take a pretty boring position. Yeah, it rubs me the wrong way to hear the word “jerk” dubbed in repeatedly (would have been nice to at least hear an “I’m walkin’ here!” to mix it up a little), but overall I sort of like these spots.

Top three reasons:

  • At the end of each one, the parties have had their disagreements, they’ve made eye contact, and they’ve moved on. Message: When horn-honking is not an option and there are no windshields between us, we can talk stuff out on the street. Maybe it doesn’t work that way in real life, but I like the message.
  • Cyclists getting on the case of other cyclists — I’m into it.
  • Who can look at Paulina Porizkova’s smile and come away thinking, “You know what, cyclists are jerks.” I’m just having a hard time seeing how these spots could inflame motorist rage, poison cyclist-pedestrian relations, or otherwise feed the backlash.

And, now that we’ve had some cycling etiquette PSAs with some insouciant language, maybe the next round of safe driving PSAs can ratchet up the intensity a few more levels.

  • debbinyc
  • Indefinitelee

    in the paulina porizkova psa it was not obvious that she was going through a red light. I thought it was going to be about jerk pedestrians blindly stepping out into the street.

  • Smug G.

    I don’t know why DOT is even bothering! We have the moral high ground. We can’t be the ones who are road- jerks! Our bikes are freeing america from the tyranny of global waing and oil dependence!!! Our bikes will save the world!!! Look out world… You’re about to be saved! And ya know what? You’re welcome!

  • Eric McClure

    Yeah, they’re pretty well done. I like the John Leguizamo spot best — with the JSK cameo. Can’t wait to hear the Cuozz/Peyser/Kramer/Cindy Adams review of that!

  • Ian Dutton

    Grrr! Eric beat me to pointing out The Commish’s cameo appearance! I didn’t like that the Leguizamo spot ended with taunting. Maybe it was because I nearly got beheaded by a truck blocking the Grand St. protected lane and then swinging his door open, and when I closed the door (checking first to make sure that no one was in the way of the door), I of course got a barrage of “Fuck you”‘s… Typical New York driver.

  • Joe R.

    They’re actually a lot less preachy than I thought they would be, along with injecting a bit of humor to lighten things up.

  • Aml450

    how about a matching campaign directed at pedestrians along the line of the mid-60’s “cross at the green, not in between”?

  • Mark Walker

    I remember “cross at the green, not in between” from childhood. It had the desired effect. To this day, I virtually never cross in mid-block.

  • Joe R.

    Well, I remember those commercials also, but I find crossing mid-block to be safer. You only need to look for traffic running along the street, not turning cars.

  • Anonymous

    I would love to see a second series of similar “don’t be a jerk ads” directed at pedestrians walking out into bike lanes without looking/waiting for the light standing in the bike lane, and at driver parking in bike lanes, swinging doors open without looking, swerving into the bike lane without look, and laying on the horn/passing too closely/screaming at cyclists for having the audacity to ride in the road.

  • Channel Four ran this on the news last night and it seems cyclists aren’t the only ones unhappy about these ads. Apparently some parents groups feels the City shouldn’t encourage name calling, especially when the kid speaks, rather rudely, to John Leguizamo.

    Maybe DOT should’ve cast Robin Williams instead.

  • Driver

    I am amazed at some of the peds I see walking the wrong way in the bike lane (not across) and completely ignoring cyclists who are ringing their bells, only to be completely ignored.

  • Marcia Kramer’s Eyebrow

    Oddly I just came back from a facial (hold the jokes) and the two women on staff and a woman in the waiting room were talking about these spots cause they were on GoodDay NY this morning.

    So I asked them that I am in the business of reporting on bicycling and transportation and just wondered what they thought. Two of them said they thought the commercials were really mean. One said she thought they were “okay” (and she said she bikes sometimes)

    I asked about the celebrities in the commercials. Two of them said they knew the “male actor”. None of them knew who Paulina or Mario was.

    Just a fly on the wall.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    I thought the part where the kid and Leguizamo interact was the best part of all three commercials.

  • STU

    You really think that kid was rude? You don’t interact with kids much, do you. When someone’s being a jerk (especially a dangerous, safety-risking jerk) they need to be told so — I think that’s a lesson that is sorely lacking these days, in places from the schools to the streets. It’s not disrespectful, even if it’s coming from a minor to an adult. In fact, as Clarence said, that part makes it even more effective.


“Don’t Be a Jerk” — The Wrong Message at the Wrong Time

This week, the New York City Department of Transportation began promoting its online (and thankfully multilingual) “Bike Smart Pledge,” asking cyclists to yield to pedestrians, stop at red lights and stop signs, ride in the direction of traffic, stay off the sidewalk, and have the proper lighting when riding at night. This will soon be […]

Don’t Dismiss “Don’t Be a Jerk”

Last week, Doug Gordon wrote that DOT’s upcoming “Don’t Be a Jerk” campaign is the wrong message to educate cyclists at the wrong time. I disagree. “Don’t Be A Jerk” is precisely the sort of catchy phrase that is needed to wake up all New York City cyclists, of all economic classes and educational backgrounds, […]

New York’s Next Generation of Vehicular Cyclists

This video critique of the new bike lane on First Avenue has been making the rounds, and it must give some comfort to John Forester and the vehicular cycling school. Vehicular cyclists reject all forms of bicycle-specific infrastructure and believe all cycling should be done in traffic. In this vid they can see a young […]

Inebriated Columnist Issues Fatwa Against Kamikaze Jerks

Last week, columnist Steve Dunleavy used his 400-word rant-space in the New York Post to urge the city’s cab riders and motorists to throw open their car doors in front of "pedal punks" riding their "maiming machines," and, "take back the streets" from bike-commuting "kamikaze jerks."  City cyclists, already feeling vulnerable after a month of […]