Gory Comic Books Warn Phoenix Children About Death by Bike

Apparently it’s never too early to talk to your kids about violent death.

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Kids these days – always out getting holes scraped into their skulls! Photo via The Arizona Republic.

Kids these days – always out getting holes scraped into their skulls! Photo via The Arizona Republic.

Looking for a great way to teach your kids about bike safety and the certainty of violent death? Look no further than the Phoenix Street Transportation Department‘s fun new educational resource!

In advance of their upcoming Bike to School day on May 4, the city of Phoenix has been handing out a particularly horrific set of “bike safety” comics to elementary schoolchildren, much to the understandable alarm of the children’s parents. The set of seven graphic novels – emphasis on graphic – feature a series of safety tips such as “Ride on the right!” and “Avoid the blind spot!” with gruesome consequences for a failure to abide. The cover of the “Always wear a helmet!” edition features a young cyclist whose brain is exposed by a section of scraped-away skull, with blood dripping down his face. In another, the poor fella gets his legs crushed by a truck because he was foolish enough to pop a wheelie.

Aside from promoting the dangerously misguided notion that cyclists are squarely to blame for their own injuries, rather than say, the driver of the truck who drove over a child’s legs or the city planners who failed to provide the boy with anywhere safe to ride, the comic books are also just straight up appalling. They’re difficult to look at even as an adult. How anyone thought it was a good idea to present to them to children boggles the mind.

Children love to learn about the sounds of their own bones splintering.

Children love to learn about the sounds of their own bones splintering.

The books were produced by the Phoenix Street Transportation Department with an $18,700 grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. Rob Osborne, the illustrator responsible for the drawings, told the Arizona Republic that he knew the intent was to be over the top, but was himself actually surprised when he received no negative feedback about just how gruesome the drawings were.

Parents, however, were less impressed. One parent of a third grader reported to the Arizona Republic that the drawings scared her daughter, and expressed disbelief that the books are frequently handed out at school and community events around the city. The Department of Transportation, meanwhile, considers the program a success and is now working on a series for children as young as kindergarten, which Osborne will again illustrate.

At a time when physical inactivity among children is at an all-time high and childhood obesity is reaching a crisis point, cities should be doing everything they can to encourage children to bike. While cycling safely is certainly important, that message would be much better sent alongside a campaign to improve driver safety and the development of road conditions which permit children to ride. Instead, the Department of Transportation is basically saying ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ to safe streets, and encouraging children to accept the status quo or end up lying in a pool of blood.

Now I’m not a parent, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t the sort of education I’d want my children to receive.

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  • Marie Autrey

    As a former resident of Phoenix, I’ve got to say that any ride that only leaves part of your brain exposed, was a successful one. I’ve never seen a place with more insane, incompetent, and/or homocidal drivers.

  • Leslie Wilson

    It seems to me that the real intent is to scare the kids away from cycling.

  • Brad

    Holy cow. I don’t think I could come up with a better way to keep young kids from riding bikes and maybe, that’s the goal here because the most effective way to reduce injuries via bicycle, is to have less people on bicycles.
    Running scare campaigns and legislating helmet laws reduce ridership but that’s a bad thing for everybody because it’s been proven over and over that the more people ride the better their health and safety become.
    Ironic, isn’t it? Scaring people away from that which helps them

  • Peter

    First, I’m of the older generation, who got to watch gory movies in Drivers’ Ed. Somehow, we managed to survive. Keep in mind that these same delicate flowers you’re so concerned with are playing MineCraft and Call of Duty.

    Second, most of the messages make sense to me–except the wheelie one (though I’d need more context). I’ve looked through the comics, though, and couldn’t find which one had that. So, except for that, they’re saying, “Wear a Helmet,” “Ride on the Right with Traffic,” “Stay out of the Door Zone,” “Don’t run red lights,” “Stop at Stop Signs,” “Avoid riding in a Vehicle’s Blind Spot,” and “Have a light when you ride at night.”

    Which of these don’t you agree with?

    • Hilary Angus

      The issue I take with them isn’t with the actual recommendations for safe cycling, those I can totally agree with. The issue is more with the presentation of cycling as this horrific, dangerous activity that will leave you trampled and bleeding for any indiscretion.

      It just does very little to encourage kids to ride, and to an 8 or 9 year old (the age group the booklets are aimed at, where Driver’s Ed is for teenagers), I’m not sure gory, fear-based material is appropriate. You can and should teach kids about bicycle safety without scaring them out of ever wanting to hop in the saddle, and as a former 8 year old I can attest to largely avoiding activities that I thought would kill me. Moreover, and more importantly, the $18,000 + program just does nothing to address the real issues which threaten kids on the street, such as speeding and dangerous infrastructure. It puts the onus on children to protect themselves rather than holding adults responsible for protecting children.

    • Brad

      Peter, video games have a ratings system because some of them are not appropriate for certain age groups. These comic books are targeted at children who are not mature enough to understand what they mean. What they will do is embed a life long ingrained belief that riding bicycles will result in horrific injuries and death

    • The point is that this anticycling campaign puts the onus on cyclists, not on the drivers of trucks and cars that threaten our lives.

      And helmets are superfluous for utilitarian cyclists if there is proper separated infrastructure. This crap is a way of avoiding what needs to be done to achieve cycling – and pedestrian – safety.

  • IwillNeverTell

    “They’re difficult to look at even as an adult. How anyone thought it was a good idea to present to them to children boggles the mind.” I LOL’d hard at this part, you are clearly out of touch with the Minecraft and Call of Duty generation. Much like the Senate, the sooner the old bittys get out of journalism, the sooner younger, better informed persons can presents real world arguments.

    • Hilary Angus

      I mean, maybe I am? I get that there’s a lot of violent imagery in pop culture these days, but I’m clinging to the (perhaps overly optimistic) notion that it isn’t for 8 and 9 year olds. Are most people’s third and fourth graders playing Call of Duty? That seems pretty young.

      More than believing children are immune to violent imagery, it’s the context this was presented in. Call of Duty is a video game, it’s up to individual parents whether or not their kids are going to play it. Handing out a pamphlet which was literally designed to scare 8 and 9 year olds out of a beneficial activity, in an educational context, is entirely inappropriate.

      For further context on my own personal opinion in this, I’m 26 years old. I’m not sure at what age I become an “old bitty” but I’m hoping I’m not over the hill just yet. 😉

      • IwillNeverTell

        I got a little mean with the old bitty, I apologize, but I imagine its all about how you grew up and where you live. My kids received these comics from their school which is in an area where most kids as young as 6 are allowed to ride to school alone which they do dangerously, I will say it, in the hood. Since they received these, as well as free helmet, they are no longer racing dangerously to school and actually wearing the helmets they were given. Just one example of it actually working given the targeted audience.

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