Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Hear the bike rap and seven other transportation safety songs

October 11, 2011 - 09:11 AM
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(Photo: YouTube/ZoomSafer)

The underlying dangers of the road have been more heavily on my mind in the last few days, from the prevalence of drunk driving to the way people break speeding limits to Maryland's new law that'll fine you $70 for just reading a text message while at the wheel. What underlies all these problems is the need for safe behavior on the road and our society's struggle to define what that means. The definition has differed over time ... and people have sought to instruct people on what this means with each passing generation. These rules of traffic etiquette affect everyone from drivers to bicyclists to pedestrians.

In doing so, people have relied on PSAs, of course, but also the joy of song — and there have been some doozies over the years. Let's review some of the best ones.

First, consider the "Bike Safety Rap!" from the 1990s, with a hat tip to Jezebel.

Is this the best way to teach kids about bike safety? I'm not entirely sure, but I imagine it's one of the most fun ways to do so. And at the very least, a video like this gets children to pay attention. "From now on, that's the way, riding safe every day!" a helmet-wearing camp counselor figure raps to a band of young kids, also all in helmets. Tips range from alerting passersby of your presence to listening to every sound. The most important rule: "Wear a helmet every time you ride."

Next up, we have a song that's perfectly fitting in light of Maryland's new anti-texting law — the subject is distracted driving.

Its simple title is "Won't Stop Texting." Lines include "Send your text before you drive, getting to point B safe and alive/Won't start texting, resisting that temptation/Eyes on the road, to my destination/The guy beside me picked his nose, there's a woman with no clothes..." And so on.

Not terrible, right? The tune, courtesy of Marsh Carroll, is definitely stripped down in the style of the Moldy Peaches, but speaks right to our modern sensibilities and new campaigns against distracted driving. I hope U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has heard this one.

This urge to make transportation safety songs is international in nature. Consider the following song, for instance:

And then there's this American song that encourages children to pay attention to traffic signals and explains the purposes of the yellow, green, and red lights.

"And what does a black light mean?" the eerie, suspender-wearing singer asks. "It means you gotta dance, dance, dance!"

Then there's this one...

A self-described "61-year-old white guy" who can't rap or dance, as he says, raps about bike safety, emphasizing the need for night lights. "Riding in the dark may be fun, but riding in the dark is really dumb," he murmurs in a half-rap, half-speaking voice. "Gotta get a night light for your bike, gotta make your bike bright."

Walk to School Day also inspired its musical followers this year. All over D.C., various schools participated and led walks to school this past October 5 as part of an international movement more than a decade old. But how many involved music?

Here, watch these Michigan schoolchildren practice the Ped Safety Dance a month ago in preparation for Walk to School Day.

Sometimes even major bands produce songs with a traffic-safety message to them.

Let's celebrate pedestrian safety again in this one. Here's a song called "Crosswalk" from the cello-friendly band Rasputina, which will be playing at D.C.'s The Black Cat this 2011 Halloween. "I look to the left and right when I'm crossing," the frontwoman for Rasputina sings. What a good message, no? It's pedestrian safety accompanied by cello. Drunk driving also inspires its own medley of songs. Some are professional, serious messages about the harms of intoxication and motor vehicles, others are more grassroots efforts. These tend to be more morbid tunes than some of the other songs.

Here are two young men singing their own song, "Drunk Driving's Really Bad."

Are you feeling safer yet? What we have here is a whole genre of music from the past several years. 

These transit safety songs generally combine a spirit of fun with the necessary spirit of road safety and etiquette. Listen for yourself, hear their messages, and make your own transportation music to share with the world. What's your favorite one?

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