DOT’s Newest Bike/Ped Safety Campaign: “Heads Up”

DOT's newest PSA campaign urges cyclists and pedestrians to pay attention and follow the rules of the road.

“Heads Up.” That’s the Department of Transportation’s newest message for cyclists and pedestrians, which will appear on six billboards, 300 bus shelters and 250,000 coffee cup sleeves around the city.

The new campaign marks a more positive tone than DOT’s “Don’t Be A Jerk” campaign, which many cyclists felt unfairly stigmatized bike riders. It’s also an expansion of emphasis from that campaign, aiming to influence pedestrian behavior as well.

Cyclists are urged to use lights at night, yield to pedestrians, travel in the direction of traffic, and stop at reds (“because it’s always better to arrive fashionably late,” says the ad). Pedestrians are told to watch for turning cars while crossing the street and not to cross mid-block. We’re not too optimistic about the effectiveness of any PSA campaign to convince New Yorkers not to walk the straightest route between point A and point B.

While the warning about turning cars indirectly acknowledges the danger posed by drivers who fail to yield, there is currently no equivalent PSA aimed at motorists. DOT will continue its current motorist public education campaigns, “That’s Why It’s 30,” focusing on speeding, and “You The Man,” supporting designated drivers.

Image: NYC DOT
  • Albert

    “…there is currently no equivalent PSA aimed at motorists”

    Probably because these PSAs seem to specifically be tips about how not to get killed, not how to protect others.  Drivers don’t need any protection from peds or cyclists.

    But I’m glad it doesn’t read, “Heads up, Jerk!”

  • I’d like to give this progressive DOT the benefit of the doubt, but I’d really like to know what they’re thinking putting any ounce of blame on the shoulders of pedestrians here.  If pedestrians have the light, and are in the cross walk, cars should always yield and turn with caution.  End of discussion.  It doesn’t matter if the pedestrian is texting… or standing on their heads, the onus of responsibility rests with the automobile.   

    How about encouraging motorists to decelerate before an approaching turn and to always brake for any activity in the crosswalk?  End of discussion. 

  • Mike

    DOT has aimed far more PSAs at drivers than cyclists and pedestrians (“That’s Why It’s 30”; “You The Man” etc.). Street safety is everyone’s responsibility and now it’s our turn to see these ads and step up.

  • Daphna

    GRRRrrr…. yet another campaign putting the onus on vulnerable street users for keeping themselves alive rather than on the motorists who are driving the heavy vehicles that are causing the unsafe road conditions.  The onus should be on the driver.  This type of campaign is damaging because drivers will see these billboards and it will feed into the already prevalent psychology that it is appropriate to fault cyclist and pedestrian behavior for collisions rather than driver error.

    Riverside Park is full of red signs putting the onus on cyclists instead the pedestrians (which I disagree with) without regard to right of way; the DOT should use that same technique for drivers and should plaster the city with similar signs: “Drivers must yield to pedestrians and cyclists at all times.”  That’s a campaign I would support!!!

  • Mediaite

    How about a new PSA aimed at mortorists? “Drivers: Stop killing people.”

  • Morris Zapp

    Contrary to what the poster implies, it is not against the law in New York State to text, talk on the phone or listen to music while walking.

    As it is the cops and the media are eager to blame people for their own deaths when they are run over by negligent drivers while engaging in the perfectly legal act of crossing the street while using an electronic device.

    This victim-blaming crap isn’t helping.

  • Anonymous

    While I like these much more than the “Don’t be a jerk” campaign, I’m still sick of seeing signs and PSAs that are about how pedestrians and cyclists need to watch out for cars.  On 8th Ave on every other block there is a sign saying, “Cyclists watch for turning vehicles”.  How about we get some signs that say, “Hey Jackass, don’t turn your 2000 pound vehicle without looking!”

  • “Street safety is everyone’s responsibility and now it’s our turn to see these ads and step up.”

    Whee, look at the context-blind empty thoughts already inspired by these wonderful billboards. Now it’s “our turn” to save our own skin from motorists breaking the law when we are legally crossing streets—as if those of us still living and breathing haven’t been doing just that all along. 

    These billboards are toxic and embarrassing, particularly the one targeting pedestrians for scorn. My question for the DOT is this: is there any evidence, at all, that billboards telling potential traffic victims to be more vigilant actually works? Is this proven to be effective at saving lives, or is it just something the embattled bureaucrats can point at when motorists complain about being “singled out” for doing 99.9% of the killing on our streets?

  • Anonymous

    Hey how about a campaign urging drivers to, you know, drive not like belligerent retards?

  • Mediaite
  • About time. Because pedestrians can sometimes be just as stupid as motorists.

  • Mark Walker

    “Cyclists are urged to use lights at night, yield to pedestrians, travel in the direction of traffic, and stop at reds…. Pedestrians are told to watch for turning cars while crossing the street and not to cross mid-block.” Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. People who act as though their chronically law-breaking actions are beyond critique are part of the problem, not the solution.

  • Andrew

    @m_walker:disqus While it’s obviously a good idea for pedestrians to watch for turning cars, they’re obligated to do so by law. Drivers, however, are obligated to watch for pedestrians while they turn, and to yield to them. Where’s the PSA directed at drivers?

    And, while it may be illegal, it’s often safer for pedestrians to cross mid-block, where they don’t have to worry about turning traffic – especially on one way streets.

  • Ben Kintisch

    I agree with most of the comments in this thread. Sure, we’d all like to see a PSA campaign about sharing the road aimed at drivers. But like Mark Walker says below, the advice is fair and reasonable. Each time I stop at a red light, use my blinky lights, yield to ped’s, go with the flow of traffic, I am sending the message to motorists, pedestrians, and yes, other cyclists, that we cyclists are good citizens and worth protecting. Of course the penalty for stupid, unsafe behaviors should never be death or serioous injury. …but commonsense safe biking and walking might just save your life.

  • CBerthet

    It is the ultimate hypocrisy to “educate” pedestrians ( the victims) to watch out for the predators ( drivers) when the DOT engineers REFUSE to install split phase signals which actually avoid the conflicts between turning cars and pedestrians, one of the highest cause of pedestrian injuries and deaths in NYC.

  • Tallycyclist

    Ben Kintisch  That’s a fair enough argument/advice that will at least increase one’s chance of survival.  But there needs to be a PSA campaign along the lines of “Pay attention at all times while driving, and follow the traffic rules.” Let’s face it, cars are the ones killing people >99% of the time, among other negative externalities imposed on society.  Of course there are cyclists and pedestrians that act foolishly or like idiots.  Many of these people also drive cars.  Why should anyone expect them to suddenly become law-abiding, courteous and careful motorists?  The only real difference is that in the former situation they are one likely to get killed, while in the latter they are most likely going to kill someone else in an collision.  

  • Joe R.

    The best thing NYC could do to ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists would be to pass a vulnerable user law. If you hit a pedestrian or cyclist with a motor vehicle, you would automatically be at fault, regardless of whether you “had the light” or not. Traffic signals are frequently used as an excuse for having killed a vulnerable user in this city. Short term a vulnerable user law would change that. Long term the traffic signals need to go for a whole host of reasons, primary among them being that unsignalized streets would force motorists to drive much slower.

    Sure, it’s absolutely a good idea for pedestrians and cyclists to look where they’re going and check before crossing streets. That’s where my agreement with this campaign ends. Some of the other advice borders on ludicrous. It’s far safer for a pedestrian to cross a busy street in the middle, where they don’t face turning cars. And there are many circumstances where it’s safer for a cyclist to pass a red light than to start out with a pack of aggressive motor vehicles, provided they check first if the way is clear. That this safer behavior should be illegal is something which needs to be corrected. Motorists never face the dilemma of choosing dangerous and legal or safer and illegal. Neither should any other user.


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