Cyclists: just asking for it?
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Communications and Contemporary Arts
This paper is a preliminary report on a project examining the social and legal implications of media bias in reporting cyclist road crashes, which frequently blames the victim, positioning them as members of an ‘out group’; framing their activity as risk-taking behaviour; and de-personalising them, in opposition to the descriptors generally used for motor vehicle drivers. Research suggests the consistent framing of cyclists as “the other” results in cyclists being seen as likely to behave irrationally, unlawfully and selfishly; to have no legitimate right to be on either the road or the path; and to be more likely to be at fault if they have a crash with another road user. Moreover, the stereotyping of cyclists, as if they were a homogenous group, creates false commonalities between everyone who cycles, as a subset of road users, in a way which would seem absurd if it was applied to other road users. The problem with this blame-shifting approach - sometimes known as the “rape discourse” - in reporting road crashes, is that it implies that cyclists are asking for trouble by being on the road at all. This has had legal consequences both in Australia and overseas with drivers who killed vulnerable road users being punished less harshly than other people who have killed without intent.