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.

  • calwatch

    Actually, since Obamacare expansion, this is no longer the case since 2014 and anyone who makes below the specified amount in Medicaid expansion states like California, can get Medi-Cal. And, unlike Covered California, which has specified enrollment periods, anyone who qualifies can enroll for Medi-Cal at any time. Please check your facts.

  • James

    Did your mom forget to bring Oreos down to the basement calwatch? Did this upset your routine and drive you to go online and fact check someone?

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    LA Metro pulled a PSA about dooring cyclists because it made cycling appear dangerous. Maybe they will respond to your request. That said, you are correct; an image of paramedics pulling a body out of wrecked car (on stretcher with neck brace) would be more appropriate.

    Calwatch is correct about Medi-Cal expansion. But James is simply a troll – can you remove his post before others feed him?

  • Joe Linton

    James didn’t use expletives, slurs or other hate speech, so his comment will stay. I think it’s a mean, dumb response – and I am grateful for calwatch’s always-helpful input.

  • sahra

    Actually, that information came from Medi-cal’s own web posts about eligibility. It has indeed expanded to include folks of a particular income level (alluded to with “other specific criteria”), but still caters to those folks that have the conditions mentioned (allowing them to have higher income levels and still be eligible), plus a few others. The larger point being, the ad is not helpful in informing anyone about Medi-Cal or who might be eligible or likely to use it, and it probably isn’t reaching the folks who could benefit from it. New enrollees are largely lower-income Latinos. I’m not sure this speaking to them in a way that addresses their situations.

  • Mitchell

    “Dooring,” my ass! When pedestrians are exiting a car, they get “biked”!

  • Corvus Corax

    I don’t blame YOU so much, I blame whoever taught you how to write ‘biked’.

  • Mitchell

    Sorry (or not-so-sorry), Corvus, I created the term “biked” entirely on my own. I think it has potential as a meme! :-)

    The term is self-explanatory: as it illustrates, bikes don’t belong around pedestrians, and they don’t belong among cars. Swat the gnats!

  • Corvus Corax

    I find that VERY hard to believe, as would anyone who has read other posts of yours – oh, wait, they can’t: as a typical small-brained bike-hating troll, you have kept your posts private. But if anyone is interested, Mitchell is the guy who said: ‘Quote marks are for (short) story titles; italics are for titles of novels and other books’ – Know Your Troll, number 429B

  • Mitchell

    Thank you for pointing out that I’m literate — and, btw, a (now retired) professional typographer.

    As for trolling…. Cut the personal invective (e.g., “small-brained”). Civil discussion starts there.

    I haven’t attacked you (or anyone here) personally — only their equipment. On this site, I’ve seen cars (and for that matter, motorists) called far uglier names than “gnats.”

  • Corvus Corax

    Literate? THAT was your takeaway? In fact, I was pointing out the exact opposite: your idea of where quotation marks (NOT ‘quote marks’) and italics is absolutely 100% incorrect. Yes, I should not have called you small-brained: after all, something can be very large and still be non-functioning.

  • Melanie Curry

    I’m stuck on an irrelevant point: I can’t get over how much this guy looks like Fred Armison–as if somehow this picture is supposed be funny/absurd like his character in Portlandia, being all shouty about his right of way on a bike. It’s not.

  • dat

    State law dictates that the person in the car is responsible for ensuring its clear before opening their door.

  • calwatch

    From a health policy standpoint, we need to get lower educated and lower income people into the health system before they become sick and cost everyone else more. Since parents are likely already enrolled in health care due to having their kids immunized for school and post-natal care, the goal is to then get those in low income jobs with insurance so that maybe they can get a physical exam and have chronic conditions diagnosed for their sake before it becomes critical.

    Women without children would likely have been involved in the healthcare system for their reproductive health, even if it’s just birth control pills at Planned Parenthood where they would get a referral to low cost health insurance. And you need ads in English too, although I’m not sure a middle aged white man in Lycra works, but what else would get men who feel invincible to get health coverage?

  • Mitchell

    Change the law! A human being exiting a vehicle has become a pedestrian — buzzed and biked! Swat the gnats!

  • Mitchell

    Wrong, Corvus!

    “Italics are used for large works, names of vehicles, and movie and television show titles. Quotation marks are reserved for sections of works, like the titles of chapters, magazine articles, poems, and short stories.” – (or any style manual for typographers and editors).

    Try googling “Italics vs quotation marks.” You might learn something, even if you and your brain are most at home in the gnat lane!

  • dat

    The argument you’re making doesn’t pass the smell test. The law is the way it is so someone in a car can’t just throw their door open when another auto or bike is going by them. For example, on a narrow street, a person parks and throws their door all the way open just as another person is passing. If the person passing is in an auto, the parked person’s door gets ripped off their car. If the person passing is on a bicycle the hit the door and get seriously injured or die. Both of these scenarios are avoided because you have the responsibility to look to see that it’s clear prior to opening your door into the travel lane. What you’re suggesting would put that responsibility on the person in the travel lane who has no control over the opening of the door. That would not work and would be totally unsafe for everyone involved. Also your blind person argument has zero to do with what we’re talking about in this case, they’re two totally unrelated things.

  • Mitchell

    I’m not talking about “throwing” a door open (what loaded language!). Looking first is mere common sense!

    I’m talking about getting “biked” after a door’s already (partly or fully) open, especially when stepping out of a car, by a bike that seems to come out of nowhere in the intervening few seconds (i.e., from behind an obstruction, moving fast relative to the car-exiter’s standstill). This sort of thing happens all the time!

    (To some extent, this problem also applies when a driver is starting out as a light turns green, or is making a right turn.)

    Cyclists seem to feel entitled to all this, as part of their “right of way”; the real problem is a combination of lack of timely visibility and an inability to maneuver or stop relative to a stationary or slow-moving object or person — hence, my analogy to hitting a blind person’s cane. The fact that the object may be a car door (or an exiting motorist) is a decoy issue! It’s not really about cars, even if the self-righteous bike lobby has (one hopes, only temporarily) gotten its way with the law.

    Despite the currently-prevailing orthodoxy, I believe bikes (given these shortcomings) don’t belong on busy city streets. They should use quiet side streets wide enough to accommodate them — for their own sake, as well as pedestrians and people who drive cars. Meanwhile, swat the gnats!

    By the way, lest I seem like a “troll”: I stumbled onto this site quite accidentally, and was outraged by what I saw. I have many interests (some involving subjects far more controversial than those discussed here); though I obviously have strong feelings on this subject, it’s not an obsession of mine.

    I keep my posts private because i don’t care to be hounded in my online travels by ideologues, trolls, or thought police of any kind.

  • “I’m talking about getting “biked” after a door’s already (partly or
    fully) opened (however slowly), especially when stepping out of a car,
    by a bike that seems to come out of nowhere in the intervening few
    seconds (i.e., from behind an obstruction, moving fast relative to the
    car-exiter’s standstill). Buzzzzz…SMACK! This sort of thing happens
    all the time!”

    You’ve got to be kidding me…an average bike goes about 5-20 mph (and 20 mph is really booking it). If you’ve been “biked,” it means you didn’t look. I’m curious to hear how many times you seen this happen…

    I’m 31, and I grew up in Los Angeles. I have never seen what you speak of…

  • Mitchell

    If you’re moving so slowly, why can’t you stop in advance? You’re assuming the door is always being “thrown” open at precisely the instant that the bike is passing — not likely. More likely, the bike’s coming out of a blind spot, too fast to be seen and too fast to stop, after the exiting pedestrian has already looked. The more slowly the door opens (or the more slowly the person moves), the more likely this is to happen.

    More likely still, by taking the right-of-way for granted, the cyclist simply isn’t watching. At best, the pedestrian is buzzed from inches away.

  • You haven’t answered my question. I don’t believe you when you say that this sort of thing “happens all the time,” because I have never EVER seen it.

    I have no problem dodging pedestrians on bike, it happens almost every time I ride. I have almost been doored many times on bike AND in car, largely in part due to the driver not checking before exiting the vehicle.

  • Mitchell

    You’re merely ASSUMING the person stepping out of the car didn’t look — or that they’re lying if they claim they did. Have you ever stopped to ask (let alone apologize)? If you narrowly miss hitting them, by the time they’ve been buzzed and rattled, you’re long gone. Bet that’s true for plenty of the pedestrians you dodge, too!

  • I’ve never ‘buzzed’ anyone or ‘biked’ anyone, I’m usually very vocal and make pedestrians who haven’t seen me aware of my presence. It seems like you’re lying since you still haven’t answered my question. I don’t believe you have ever seen anyone get ‘biked.’

    Please check before exiting your vehicle and stop jay walking. Good day.

  • Mitchell

    It’s happened to me, many times. The worst is when the cyclist’s given me the finger. This has even been witnessed by passengers, though I’m not prepared to issue them a subpoena. (I’ve seen it happen to other drivers when I’ve been a passenger, and it’s also happened to me [minus the door] as a pedestrian.)

    I didn’t start out detesting cyclists. I’m 67 now, and I used to ride a bike myself, when I was in my 20s — but I learned early on that a bike isn’t an appropriate way to get around on busy city streets.

    This isn’t a matter of feeling I’m an “entitled motorist.” I have no such problems with pedestrians (though, as a pedestrian [as I’ve described], I’ve had problems with bikes).


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