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US city uses graphic novels to teach kids cycle safety

But are the comic strips from Phoenix, Arizona, too graphic? One parent thinks so

A city in the United States is promoting cycle safety to children through a series of short graphic novels – and ‘graphic’ is the right word, given the content.

Commissioned by Phoenix, Arizona’s Street Transportation Department, the artwork leaves little to the imagination, with the six titles each focusing on one potential hazard for children on bikes.

Those topics include advice to wear a helmet, not ride in the blind spots of large vehicles or jump red lights, and to avoid the ‘door zone.’

Each graphic novel - you can find them all here - also includes tips on how to do safety checks on a bike and for safe riding.

Phoenix Bicycle Safety.JPG

Given out at cycle safety events at schools and elsewhere, they’re the work of illustrator Rob Osborne, who told AZ Central that his aim was to shock to reinforce the points being made – including, in one strip, a youngster who ignore a ‘Stop’ sign getting killed.

He says he has little in the way of negative feedback.

But Nichole Schaffer, mother of a nine-year-old girl who was given one of the novels at a cycle safety event at her school, said: "I thought, 'This can't be real’." She said the content had "freaked out" her daughter,” and added that "It looks like something out of a horror movie."

Monica Hernandez, spokeswoman for the Street Transportation Department, said: "There's nothing comical about this. This is serious."

The city is now working on a new campaign aimed at children from kindergarten age, and again Osborne will provide the illustration, although he said, "I suspect we won't be as over the top."

According to local news reports, two cyclists have lost their lives in Phoenix within the past month, both victims of hit-and-run drivers.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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