Troubling Ad Campaign From the Delaware DOT

Mike from The Bicycle Spokesman brought this to our attention yesterday: a new safety campaign from the Delaware Department of Transportation:


Mike writes:

“…I was alarmed to see that the State of Delaware (the home of Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden) which should try to ensure a safe environment for all citizens despite their selected mode of travel, issued a press release explaining how to kill a cyclist. It tells drivers how fast they need to drive in order to achieve a kill. Thanks Delaware.

In the above picture from the Delaware Neighborhood Speeding Campaign, the bicyclist is shown without a helmet despite the fact that Delaware enacted a helmet law for children under 16 in 1995. Clearly there is a rogue element in the Delaware Department of Transportation that is out to get bicyclists.”

Read the rest of his article by clicking here.

What do you think about this ad? Poor choice of image and text, or effective in its bluntness?


  1. Tim Grahl

    Saying this ad is “explaining how to kill a cyclist” or in any way encouraging drivers to hit a cyclist is rather ridiculous.

    Are anti-smoking ads are encouraging people to get lung cancer?

    Are anti-drug ads encouraging people to fry their brain?

    This ad is encouraging people to slow down so they don’t kill cyclists. It’s that simple.

  2. Pamela

    I agree with Tim. I think Jack is reaching here. This is an ad aimed at drivers, particularly the ones with no regard to their speed in residential neighbourhoods.

    And because the child wasn’t wearing a helmet doesn’t portray her as a reckless, irresponsible rider. I don’t think this ad was “out” for cyclists in the least.

  3. Shay

    I agree with the others here. Precious few drivers would ever dream of intentionally hurting a cyclist, particularly a child. I’m certain that the vast, vast majority of car-bike accidents are simply that – accidents caused by two people wanting to be in the same place at the same time. I don’t think anyone will look at this ad and say, “ah ha – so THAT’s how I take care of that idiot in the morning…”

  4. JeffS

    Sounds like another group blowing something out of proportion to get a little press.

    While I think the ad’s poorly designed, it’s certainly nothing to get all defensive about.

  5. Donald

    I think it’s poorly worded, but I read it differently.

    At 25, she’s hurt, and at 35, she’s dead.
    Go 25… so she’ll be hurt?

    I don’t think it’s intended as a “How to kill cyclists” tip, but it wasn’t well thought through.

  6. Corey

    With the way this is worded, it does seem to assume that the girl on the bike IS going to be struck, so the driver is told to keep it at 25MPH so she’ll only be hurt. Although since she is illegally (in Delaware) riding without a helmet, even 25 could be problematic for her.
    This is a poorly done ad, and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Way to do DelDOT!
    Here in Colorado we put cycling safety messages right on our license plates, which I think is simpler, and just as effective.

  7. Ghost Rider

    Hey, I’m not reaching…merely asking for your opinions. And they’re good ones. Keep ’em coming!

  8. Thom

    Let’s not be hypersensitive here. The bicycling community is marginalized enough without us being overly critical of the style of those who try to help us.
    Let’s pick our battles.

  9. Iron_Man

    This really isn’t about protecting cyclists. This is an ad to tell drivers to slow down in neighborhoods because kids are around and most likely not paying attention to you. If you are going 35 you’re more likely to kill them when they dart out unexpectedly. But if you are going 25 they have a better chance of surviving an impact or you have a better chance to react. It’s perhaps in need of some descriptive copy.

  10. Dman

    I agree with Iron_Man. The add had nothing to do with cycling at all.

  11. Ghost Rider

    Hmm…interesting perspective. And I think y’all might be right: it isn’t bicyclist-specific.

    At least they could have put a helmet on the little girl!

  12. Moe

    Unfortunately, the lack of helmet is something that is ‘the norm’. I see countless kids riding with no helmet even though California law requires anyone under the age of 16 to ride with a helmet on.

    Truth being, there’s hardly any law enforcement when it comes to bicyclists. Maybe an ad campaign such as this one targeting cyclists may help?

  13. Chris Lowe

    This is from a campaign to encourage drivers to reduce their speed. We have a similar campaign running the UK at the moment.

    They’re using kids because of the emotional impact. I don’t think that the bicycle is a necessary part of the ad – the girl is the central element. She could have just as well been roller skating or playing with a ball.

    Not really anything for cyclists to worry about. Although she should really have shown wearing a helmet.

  14. LJ

    I see nothing wrong with the ad. With or without a helmet the message is – “Be careful driving around kids”.

    I suppose if it was a kid chasing a ball some baseball websites would complain.

  15. Mike Mahaffie

    I live in Delaware and have been seeing these signs. They remind me to slow down. They remind me that there may be kids out biking. They remind me that they may or may not have helmets.

    I’m astounded that anyone would dig so deep to find something to criticize about any effort to improve bicycle safety and to make drivers aware that they share the road. These adds are just a part of a larger “share the road” approach that goes back many years.

  16. Liam

    The point the ad is trying to make is that 35-miles per hour can be a very dangerous speed in residential areas. Most drivers don’t realize how steep the fatality rate goes up at relatively low mph’s. 35 mph doesn’t feel fast in a car, especially if you’re used to going 65 mph+ on the highway. Yet that extra 10 mph over a 25 mph speed limit can be deadly to pedestrians, bicyclists, and even of the occupants of the car in a collision. I like the educational point the ad is trying to get across even if it’s not the best design.

  17. Bob

    An ad team comes up with campaign about safety between cars and bicycles. Do you think any of the people on the ad team knows anything about cycling or even rides a bike?

    It may not be the best ad, but at least someone is trying. It is a step in right direction.

  18. cafn8

    I agree with the others who have said that this is not about cycling. It’s about driving. The girl could be skating or playing with a ball and the ad would have the same impact. That being said, it doesn’t really make you want to hop on a bike, does it? Your biking options are A- Hurt or B- Dead. The drivers you’ll be sharing the road with choose for you based on their personal time constraints. I must admit, though, I probably put myself in the place of the cyclist more than the average non-cyclist, the ad’s intended audience.

  19. Bike Jax

    Hi Jack. After some years working in the marketing and advertising fields. I can let you in on couple of things about the thought process of this ad.

    First, a little girl is used and not a little boy for optimum use of sympathy.

    I’m also willing to bet the original concept for this ad had the bike rider wearing a hemet. And it was later decided that despite having a helmet law for kids. Picturing the above child with a helmet would make her appear less sweet and thus less human. So no helmet.

    It is the same fear tactics used on cyclists for years in reverse. If you don’t wear a helmet you’ll die. Instead you get, If you speed, you’ll kill someone’s sweet little girl. Fear and sex, the only marketing and advertising tools one needs.

  20. Ghost Rider

    Matt, thanks for the insight — that sounds right on the money, too.

    As a parent, I DO object to the “child + death scare = effective ad campaign”. Jeezus, couldn’t the Delaware DOT just say ” If for no other reason, do it for the children” or something to that effect? But, perhaps the bluntness of this ad IS effective — because no one wants to hit a child with their car (at least I hope).

  21. MarkR

    poor choice of words by DDOT.

    It looks to me like spokesman’s bib shorts are a little to tight and he’s got a chamoi up his butt. and he’s itching for a fight.

    Just chill the jets.

  22. Iron Man

    Bike Jax, don’t forget “envy” and “gluttony.”

  23. DEMax

    I also live in Delaware and I think anything that makes people look at their speedometer and consider the implications is good. There is minimal speed enforcement here is the first state, so people generally go as fast as they THINK they can handle their vehicles. You are less likely to get pulled over here for speeding than for anything else. So, getting people to at least consider their speed and it’s implications is big even if it reaches only one person.

  24. DEMax

    Oh and my entire family cycles almost every day, recreationally, and commuting.

  25. The Punisher

    Ghost as we say in the IT industry. “Flame” 0n.

  26. Tom

    They need to test that little girl for juice, she looks like she is moving to fast.

  27. db

    I think Mike from The Bicycle Spokesman was looking for something to write about. And this ad isn’t it.

    It gets the message across: drive slowly in residential neighborhoods. It’s not a how-to on killing kids on bikes.

    Frankly, I think it’s a lot more personal and direct than a “share the road” sign. Now we see an actual human being on a bike, not just a bike stencil on a yellow diamond.

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