The 13th Floor

The Strangest Public Awareness Campaign Ever: Be a Safe Elevator Rider!

So-called “mental hygiene” filmstrips gained popularity after WWII and wer a main source of instruction through the 1980s. These films, often unintentionally hilarious, were meant to offer guidance for children and teens, ranging in topics from sex education, safety, drugs, dating, social etiquette, and physical and mental health topics. Frequently, these films used scare tactics; other times, they were just scary.

I never realized that elevator / escalator safety was such a concern in the early 1990s. I could see if it was a new technology, but in 1992, when “Be a Safe Rider” was produced, it certainly wasn’t new. I personally don’t remember having any problem with elevator and escalator safety. Was there a spate of escalator accidents I didn’t hear about? There must have been, because it was dubbed into Spanish and French, and dubbed with regional accents.

“Be a Safe Rider” starts with two children, alone, in an empty mall. A guard warns them to approach the escalator safely, then proceeds to give the kids safety advice. The kids are bored, but luckily Ronald McDonald’s human/cat hybrid comes to life from a poster and raps for the kids.

Dressed like Ronald McDonald with a dime store snout, Safe-T Rider offers the kind of safe, terrible rapping that suburban parents didn’t fear and that old people trying to seem “hip” thought spoke to the kids. The thing that troubles me more than the weird creepy hybrid creature and his hobo-clown clothes is the fact that he carries a hammer on his belt. What does he do with that hammer?? I have images of Safe-T Rider bludgeoning parents (hence the empty mall) so that he can lure children away to do unspeakable things… like make them rap with him.


After Kool Kat has finished repeating the safety rules a dozen or so times, he disappears, leaving the security guard to try to be as “cool” as Safe-T Rider. He raps a little – or tries – and leaves the kids standing there, mystified. As a weird epilogue, Safe-T Rider asks kids to get a certificate signed by their parents and bring it back to school to exchange for a “cool prize.” If I had to guess what the “cool prize” was, I’d say it was a bash over the head with the mysterious hammer.

And the most terrifying thing of all: the fact that there was an actual Safe-T Rider mascot who would appear at schools and functions.