Research & reports

Title: Active travel in the media: Exploring representations of walking and cycling in UK and Scottish online news

Organisation: Transport Scotland & Sustrans
Date uploaded: 11th July 2019
Date published/launched: May 2019

This report concludes that active travel continues to be portrayed in the media as ‘risky and unsafe’, despite its well-documented health and environmental benefits.

The research, funded by Transport Scotland and conducted by Sustrans, analysed 600 media articles over a 12-month period to explore how walking and cycling is represented, and how people who walk and cycle are portrayed.

It found the majority of articles (61%) about active travel are ‘broadly negative’ – including 63% of articles on walking.

There is also a media focus on ‘criminal acts’ – where a crime is committed by or against a cyclist or person walking, or a person walking or cycling witnesses a crime – rather than safety.

However, there were constructive themes, with ‘infrastructure’ featuring in 64% of positive articles about active travel and ‘health’ in more than 93% of articles.

The authors say one of the key findings from the report came in the ‘visual analysis’, which supports the view that mobility is gendered.

Of those portrayed actively walking or cycling, 50% of images contained only men, while 27% showed only women. This gap widens when looking exclusively at cycling images (63% male and 18% female).

Active travel articles significantly over-represent images of white individuals (96%) in comparison to BAME individuals (4%), highlighting ‘the lack of diversity’.

The report says images can also often make cyclists and pedestrians look vulnerable through the use of ‘isolated or car-dominated locations’ and ‘voyeuristic camera angles’.

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