Insane Comic Books Warn Phoenix Children That Biking Will Kill Them

This comic book was produced by the Phoenix Street Transportation Department to warn young children about the dangers of not wearing a helmet. Retrieved from the Arizona Republic
This comic book was produced by the Phoenix Street Transportation Department to warn young children about the dangers of not wearing a helmet. Via The Arizona Republic

Hey kids, the Phoenix Department of Street Transportation has a fun message for you: Riding your bike is likely to result in a gory horror scene. If you don’t wear your helmet, of course.

This is the cover of a comic book being distributed to third and fourth graders in Phoenix.
This is the cover of a comic book being distributed to third and fourth graders in Phoenix.

That’s the gist of an over-the-top “bike safety” comic book that has alarmed parents of third and fourth graders in Phoenix. The comic shows a cyclist with his brain exposed and blood dripping down his skull on the cover. The inside is equally horrifying, conjuring a world where kids get run over and lose the use of their legs because they pop wheelies.

The books were produced by the Phoenix Street Transportation Department with a $18,700 grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. An illustrator hired by the transportation department explained to the Arizona Republic that they were meant to scare children into wearing helmets.

Helmets can protect against head injuries in the event of a crash or fall, but the idea that helmet use is the one true answer for bike safety is cartoonishly simple.

Gory comic books about bike helmets are not the kind of thing you see in places with excellent bike safety records. It is basically an admission that public agencies have failed to create safe streets and an indictment of the prevailing safety culture.

At a time when kids are developing chronic disease at an alarming rate thanks in part to the lack of physical activity, Phoenix is sending the message that something as normal as riding a bike will cause you to resemble an extra from the Walking Dead.


54 thoughts on Insane Comic Books Warn Phoenix Children That Biking Will Kill Them

  1. If you ever encounter a serious crash victim, please don’t say, “That was so stupid! You need a doctor!”

  2. This is horrifying. According to the article, artist Rob Osborne says “he hasn’t heard any negative feedback” on this victim blaming, “cycling is dangerous” comic. If anyone’s interested, you can provide him with some negative feedback via Twitter: @RobOzborne.

  3. Always wear a helmet… because you never know when a driver might crush your legs and ruin your chances of becoming a professional soccer player.

  4. This is horrific. Americans are far more likely to be harmed in these ways by driving. Yes, infrastructure needs big improvements, but this comic does nothing positive.

  5. I am no longer sure helmets save lives. Here is a source of many types of research that discredit the generous claims made by the pro-helmet crowd. Why spread fear of an injury a helmet is unlikely to prevent and may encourage. I tell people if you want to see the effectiveness of a helmet buy a young man an Evel Knievel helmet and cape. He will build his own ramp and test it, till he gets hurt or breaks the helmet :-).

  6. The website you linked contains disastrously bad “science”. The authors come to a conclusion and then look for data to support it, and the data they do cite, they wildly misinterpret. None of the studies they link to actually support their position, and they’re relying on readers to not follow the links they provide and just take what they say at face value.

  7. I have in the past.spent the time to research and follow the links they provided. I just checked and lnks are not now working. I have looked at various research, and know indipendent support for their claims exist. I suspect that they have been hacked.

  8. It looks like a US helmit information site may be hacked, so feel free to access much of the data from another site. I received a comment that the reserch is not reliable, I keep finding source documents that lead to a conclusion that helmet have very questionable real life benifits.

  9. I think what bugs me most about this garbage is the suggestion that a helmet will mean you come out perfectly fine from a crash which would otherwise have gouged out part of your skull. I suspect there are benefits to wearing a helmet, reduced chances of a concussion probably, reduction in the severity of head injuries, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen the benefits of wearing a helmet so entirely exaggerated as they have been here.

  10. These are awful – but as a streets person and a comic collector I really want one – or at least to read through the whole thing. Anyone know where I can get a copy?

  11. Would love to see the same series done for motor vehicle accidents, especially the ones where the occupants are burned alive, or impaled/beheaded. Maybe we just need to run some stills through the Final Destination series through cartoonizer software?

    Remember, the Ad Council will not allow this PSA to air in the USA:

  12. YES!!!!! These remind me of those old Jesus is going to send you to hell comic pamphlets from the 80s that really did scare the living shit out of you. God was definitely fucking scary and so are bikes i stay away from both.

  13. I don’t think they’ve updated their site in a long time (could be 2 years), so any links could be broken, not hacked.

  14. Given the drawing and plot panel style, reference to soccer, proximity of Phoenix to, and the name of the contact from the City of Phoenix, I wonder if this comic wasn’t lifted verbatim from a city in Mexico’s attempts to highlight bicycle safety and hastily translated into English. (my last name ends in a z, so no, I am not cooning here).

  15. As I read these comments I can’t help but think how silly (and serious) people can get when it comes to simply trying to promote bike safety in a new way. Whether you are a serious bike advocate or not, if you really believe these comics are detrimental you should come down to the urban schools these are handed out at and see how “cool” the kids really think they are. I understand if you are out of touch with the MIncraft and CallofDuty generation, but they work, and kids in my neighborhood I used to see riding without helmets are now wearing the helmets that were also given out for free with the comics. And this is kind of a mean finish but 1) sheltered kids who might find these comic “horrific” are not the majority, and 2) disregarding simple bike safety guidelines can get you killed, plain and simple.

  16. I looked through all the comics I could find online and couldn’t find the one about the wheelie. Where did that one come from?

  17. We need a version of this comic to hand out to DOTs. “Poor 14 year old Timmy, riding in a poorly designed bike lane. He was doored by a a woman with her own 14 year old. Look at his brains! Now he has a permanent disability, and the woman who opened her door has nightmares about it once a week. That was so stupid – I’lll never design a door-zone bike lane again!”

    “Here’s Sally in a vegetative coma after being hit trying to cross the street to get to her car! Man, that was dumb – we expected her to cross at the crosswalk that’s 1/2mi away! That’s the last time I ever design an urban street for 40mph speeds with no crossings!”

    “Here’s Jim. He’s in a wheelchair. Ooops, his chair got stuck and flipped over on the curb ramp that you designed that leads right to a ditch. That’s the last time I design a ramp to nowhere!”

  18. I bet you’re the kind of person who’d show Django Unchained to a 5-year old to teach them racial sensitivity and gun safety!

  19. AH! There it is! I’d’ve sworn I read that one, but I guess the confused links made me miss it.

  20. What’s wrong with the way it promotes safety. Bad things can happen if you’re not paying attention and don’t follow traffic rules. That’s as true for cyclists as it for motorists.

    Maybe it’s just me. I remember seeing the gory movies in Drivers’ Ed which made me more aware of what could happen. Of course, I was a teenager at the time. This might be a bit shocking for third graders…

  21. Cyclists are in denial about the dangers involved in riding a bike. From bike messenger/writer Robert Hurst:

    “Is cycling dangerous? Yes. Yes, it is. Deadly, no, but definitely dangerous. This is actually a controversial thing to say. There are those who bristle at any suggestion that cycling is dangerous, because they fear it will scare non-cyclists away from ever ditching their cars and trying a more healthy form of transport. This is a good point, but it doesn’t change the fact that cycling is dangerous. This is not some urban legend that needs to be debunked. It is reality, and we need to embrace it” (The Art of Cycling, page 69).

    From the Centers for Disease Control:

    “Overall, the activities associated with the greatest estimated number of Traumatic Brain Injury-related ED visits were bicycling, football, playground activities, basketball, and soccer. From 2001 to 2009, the estimated number of sports and recreation-related TBI visits to emergency departments (EDs) increased from 153,375 to 248,418, and the estimated rate of TBI visits increased from 190 per 100,000 population to 298. The two most common sports and recreation activities associated with ED treatment for TBI were bicycling and playing football.”

    From the American Association of Neurological Surgeons:

    “The following are the top 10 sports and recreation-related activities contributing to head injuries in 2006:

    – Cycling: 65,319

    – Football: 34,638

    – Powered Recreational Vehicles (ATVs, Dune Buggies, Go-Carts, Mini bikes,

    – Off-road): 28,585

    – Basketball: 25,788

    – Baseball and Softball: 23,125

    – Water Sports (Diving, Scuba Diving, Surfing, Swimming, Water Polo, Water

    – Skiing): 16,060

    – Skateboards/Scooters: 15,978

    – Soccer: 15,208

    – Fitness/Exercise (including at health clubs): 11,895

    – Horseback Riding: 9,260

  22. I’ve been biking to work on-and-off since 1984 and I wouldn’t call it recreation at all. Now my 4×4 that’s recreation!

  23. The 65,319 figure includes all forms of cycling: mountain biking, crits, races, acrobatic, etc. General utilitarian (commuting, leisure, simply getting from point a to point b) is statistically safe. Yes, on many roads it may not feel safe, but statistically it is safe. Of the utilitarian subgroup, 50% of the crashes are from riding the wrong way, running stop signs/traffic lights, and not using headlights at night. These can be avoided by common-sense education. 45% of the crashes are right hooks, left crosses, cars pulling out of driveways or parallel parking spaces, merging into a cyclist when changing lanes. Most experienced cyclists are skilled enough to avoid these crashes. This avoidance may mean riding left in the general travel lane. Less than 5% are the feared hit from behind.

  24. Not a big QT fan surprisingly and there is no substitute for parent taught gun safety, but I get your point, Yes my now 9 year old daughter has had some pretty hardcore Dead Space gaming sessions with me, still polite as can be though as are most her friends who received these comics!

  25. Actually, the evidence on a bike-helmet concussion benefit is pretty thin. Google “bicycle helmet concussion” and you’ll get a lot of links saying that bicycle helmets are still great even though they don’t prevent concussions or that, because helmets don’t stop concussions, they need some new wizz-bang tech feature so they can work even better. Read enough of these articles and it’s hard to believe anything positive about helmets or the people who promote them.

    Science is so supportive of bicycling in so many ways. It is frustrating to have a river of sketchy science associated with it.

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