Scanning Around With Gene: The Dire Consequences of Careless Bike Riding

One of my most popular columns of recent times highlighted a safety booklet from the 1940s entitled “It’s Great to Be Alive.” If you didn’t catch that installment, you should take a look — it’s pretty funny how gruesome some of the safety warnings for kids were back then.

I recently came across another safety pamphlet published by the same group, the Police Safety Council. This time the focus is on bicycle safety, with a few general safety tips thrown in. (I’ll share those scans next week.) This booklet shows, in graphic detail, what the worst possible consequences are for kids who don’t obey basic rules of the road. These pamphlets were distributed by local police departments through schools and other outlets. Click on any image for a larger version.

The booklet starts out innocently enough, with a few basic tips for safe bike riding. But from there things quickly turn grim.

For page after page, the story is the same. In each case the kids try something they shouldn’t, like riding two on a bike, speeding, not paying attention, or the like. Then, in the last frame, the dire consequences are revealed.

In most cases the kids are killed outright.

Though in some circumstances there are serious injuries, including being crippled for life.

My favorite are the ones where death seems almost like an afterthought, as in these two, where the skull fracture is not quite enough to scare kids — they had to add “and death” to the mix.

After a few pages you can easily see what’s coming to the poor, innocent children. A broken back is, indeed, a stiff penalty to pay for a moment of so-called fun.

I’m still not sure these tactics worked very well, and I do have to wonder if the copywriter wasn’t a bit twisted. Though I suspect the effort to try and save lives was sincere.

Tune in next Friday for more safety tips from the same artist and copywriter, all of a slightly more positive nature.

Originally published January 13, 2012

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Posted on: July 30, 2018

Gene Gable

Gene Gable has spent a lifetime in publishing, editing and the graphic arts and is currently a technology consultant and writer. He has spoken at events around the world and has written extensively on graphic design, intellectual-property rights, and publishing production in books and for magazines such as Print, U&lc, ID, Macworld, Graphic Exchange, AGI, and The Seybold Report. Gene's interest in graphic design history and letterpress printing resulted in his popular columns "Heavy Metal Madness" and "Scanning Around with Gene" here on

8 Comments on Scanning Around With Gene: The Dire Consequences of Careless Bike Riding

  1. I just love rounding out my week with you. Scanning around with Gene always bring a smile to my friday!

  2. Okay, who else thought poor Art was going to be shown with boards impaled through his chest?

  3. i may never ride a bike again!

  4. I can’t believe I made it through my bike riding years, considering that I broke most of those rules more than once — and a few of them quite regularly.

    Thanks for the reminder of how blunt some of the public service stuff was back then. No pussyfooting around, it was safety or death!

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Sanity is a relative concept.
    If you don’t believe me,
    let me introduce my relatives.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

  5. “Result—George is hit headon—another unnecessary death due to carelessness on George’s part.”

    Jeez, how many “unnecessary” (as opposed to “necessary”?) deaths are attributable to George?

    Terrific art, but the writing has that 50s snarky-authoritarian classroom-movie-narrator flavor. That stuff only worked up to around the fourth grade.

  6. It was IMPOSSIBLE for the car to stop, he was only 2 feet behind the bike, CLEARLY no fault of the motorist!

  7. I just thought I was overly protective of my children! So I am not the only one who thinks about these things.

  8. That’s it. I am never riding my bike ever again. Scary stuff

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