Ad Nauseum: L.A. County DPSS Thinks Bicycling Is Scary

Does depicting bicycling really stand for "when life gets rough"? Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Does depicting bicycling really stand for "when life gets rough"? Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Somehow the L.A. County Department of Social Services missed the memo that bicycling is actually really healthy and safe.

The DPSS ad, spotted last week on the Metro Red Line, communicates an important message: encouraging folks to sign up for Medi-Cal.

The ad depicts a fallen spandex cyclist. The text reads “When life gets rough.” The ad falls into the alltoocommon grim bicycling-equals-danger trope which shames cyclists and reinforces misperceptions about cycling safety.

Apparently because nothing says “life gets rough” quite the way bicycling does, right? Except maybe the depiction of, say, a car crash. Drivers kill more than 30,000 people annually in the United States. In 2016, driving’s death toll was over 40,000 – the highest in nearly a decade, and a national disgrace. Car crash injuries are orders of magnitude higher, with more than 2 million each year.

Perhaps worst of all, the ad will likely be ineffective. Unless Medi-Cal is literally expecting disabled former cyclists will need their services, then it does beg the question of who they think they are targeting with this ad or how they think this message will reach them. To qualify for Medi-Cal, one must be 65 or older, blind, in a nursing home, pregnant, or meet other specific criteria. Not that folks in those situations cannot be spandex weekend warrior cyclists, but it is perhaps much less likely that the ad would register with the majority of people for whom Medi-Cal represents an important life-line.

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