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Do the New Bike Helmet Ads Go Too Far?

Are the ads, featuring battered and bloodied cyclists, an effective way to communicate the need for helmets, or do they turn people off to commuting by bike?

Boston's new ad campaign promoting bike helmet use has been the talk of the web this week. The ads, featuring graphic images like a young man with a bloodied face, are designed to show people the consequences of riding without a helmet. 

Not everyone thinks that's the best way to get the message across. Bostonrider.org, the Hub's go-to blog for cyclists and anyone interested in city transportation issues, thinks the ads would scare would-be cyclists from even trying.

Universal Hub weighed in as well, saying the ads hot you like a two-by-four to the face. And nationally, Atlantic Cities picks up on the controversy as well, asking whether such shaming campaigns are ever effective.

What do you think? Does a little fear act as a motivator? Or are the ads too graphic to make their point? Is this public shaming or an earnest attempt to change public attitudes? Tell us in the comments below.

cher October 19, 2012 at 11:08 AM
Including the ad within this article would have been helpful. I'll go look for it online. Regardless, they're important. Massachusetts law requires all children aged 16 under wear a helmet at all times while biking. They also require folks to use lights a half hour past sunset and a half hour before sunrise. Too often I witness people who are barely visible, riding in the dark in dark clothing wearing no helmet and using no lights, just relying on a feeble front and or rear reflector. It's a recipe for disaster. As a bike shop owner, I can say with confidence we're not trying to oversell you stuff you don't need, these are very basic and extremely important accessories. If you think helmets look stupid, consider the alternative. Use your brain, and protect it, it's your best attribute. http://massbike.org/resourcesnew/bike-law/
Sara Jacobi October 19, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Cheryl you can see the ad if you click on the link to the Boston Biker article (http://bostonbiker.org/2012/10/14/new-no-excuses-helmet-safety-campaign-misses-its-mark)
Joseph October 19, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Not so sure a helmet will prevent a bloody face. It's a weak ad campaign that won't change whether someone wears a helmet or not.
J CORBY MCCLUSKEY October 19, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Bicyclists children are apparently exempt from safty rules as they ride behind the rider in a plastic seat(i've seen tandem) or infants riding behind in a cart with only a small flag to indicate their presence. If they are riding in a huvee, they must be in the back seated in a $200 car seat. these rules are idiotic
Chris Child October 19, 2012 at 02:21 PM
The only bicycling accident I have been in (knock on wood), was when I was ten years old and got my first bike with the handlebar breaks. I only pressed the front breaks and flew several feet into the middle of the road and landed right on my head. The helmet split completely in half but my head was absolutely fine! Obviously that would have been my head split in half if I was not wearing the helmet. A bloody face could happen whether one is wearing a helmet or not, perhaps adds illustrating the brain damage that could be caused by not wearing a helmet would be more effective.
gretchen van ness October 19, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Here's what Boston blogger bikeyface has to say on the subject: http://bikeyface.com/2012/10/18/serious-about-safety/
PGRD October 19, 2012 at 09:52 PM
The graphic smoking ads received the same lukewarm, wimpish response. Tobacco kills in ghastly ways and bicyclists in accidents get very badly injured; stop pulling the punches.
cher October 20, 2012 at 04:04 AM
Thanks, I passed an ad at the bus stop in JP earlier today. My ugliest accident occurred years ago in Oak Sq., involved (in addition to a totally twisted fork) several stitches, a violent gastro allergic reaction (really hardcore non-stop vomiting) to antibiotics which later resulted to another medication switch which led to impetigo (and my feeling like a leper on the bus en route to yet another visit to the hospital), still, all of which were far preferable to a brain injury.
cher October 20, 2012 at 04:07 AM
so yeah, had i not worn a helmet, i would have sustained the same injuries and complications. had i not, i could and very well may have sustained worse. why take chances? a good helmet costs what, $60? aren't you worth that?

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