New public safety messages from the MTA are drawing the ire of transportation advocates. The video PSAs, released Wednesday, seek to “educate bus customers, pedestrians and bicyclists about safety on and around buses,” according to the MTA.
In one, an African-American cyclist wears headphones while riding, bops to his music, takes a selfie and then smashes into the rear of a stopping bus. (Legally, riders are allowed to wear one earbud while on a bike, but not two.) The pedestrian video warns against texting while walking, and shows a young white woman stepping into the street while looking at her phone, only to be struck by a bus.
“Nothing that we’ve seen indicates that bikers taking selfies while riding are a major cause of fatalities and injuries with MTA buses," says Paul Steely White, director of Transportation Alternatives. "What we have seen time and again this year are cases where MTA drivers are not yielding to pedestrians crossing in the crosswalk with the light."
None of the videos mention safe driving or operations on the part of the bus driver. Twelve people, including seven pedestrians, have been killed by MTA buses this year, according to the agency. The MTA could not say whether texting was a factor in any of the deaths.
“It only takes a few seconds of distraction for a situation to turn tragic. We strive to always improve bus safety, and this campaign helps emphasize the cooperative effort necessary to reach that goal,” said NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco.
The PSAs aren’t the MTA’s only safety measure. The agency is “testing technology to reduce the likelihood of collisions with pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles, and is also enhancing training for bus operators,” according to a press release. That includes an audio warning when buses are turning, and a radar system to detect cars, people and bikes, both slated for testing in 2015.