Calling a Spade, a Spade
Michael Nimmo, AECOM
This paper examines the portrayal of different transport modes in the media and wider culture (including advertising) to examine how this shapes our travel choices
Cycling is a healthy, affordable, green and safe way to travel with outstanding potential for meeting transport needs in towns, cities and beyond - a fact which is demonstrated in countries around the world.
Driving, particularly in towns and cities, contributes to congestion and air pollution, has no health benefits, is relatively expensive, creates a maintenance burden on roads authorities, and results in more than 20 deaths and serious injuries every day in the UK.
Against this background, cycling is often portrayed in the media as an activity only undertaken by irresponsible hooligans, or a tiny minority of eccentrics. Cycling is seen to be inherently dangerous, with regular calls for the use of elaborate safety equipment to be made mandatory.
Meanwhile driving is considered in some parts of the media an essential right to be protected, in the face of a never-ending "war on the motorist". Many articles relating to transport issues do not appear to reflect realistic levels of car use in the population (in Glasgow more than half of households do not have access to a car). Advertising imagery promotes car aspirational and glamorous images of car ownership
This paper examines the portrayal of different transport modes in the media and wider culture (including advertising) to examine how this shapes our travel choices. In addition to the above examples, the relative coverage of pedestrian and cycling issues will be compared, along with the cultural representation of public transport use.
The research aims to identify ways to fundamentally change perceptions of travel modes, to more accurately reflect the positive and negative societal impacts of each, with particular attention on cycling.
Drawing on examples and references from other countries the paper will seek to set out lessons which could be used to change attitudes towards transport choices, and influence travel behaviour in the UK.
Association for European Transport