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Road wars? The role of language in perceptions of bikes and cars sharing the road: Possible implications for social marketing interventions

Tapp, Alan; Rundle-Thiele, Sharyn; Anibaldi, Renata; Warren, Stella; Beardmore, Amy


Sharyn Rundle-Thiele

Renata Anibaldi


In ‘(re)emerging cycling regions’ such as Australia and the United Kingdom, cycling has experienced increased interest as a viable form of everyday transport as an alternative to cars and public transport, as well as growing popularity as leisure or sporting activity. In the absence of segregated infrastructure, harmonious road sharing is going to be an important issue to sustain this growth. Road sharing, however, has become a controversial issue. Media reports in both the United Kingdom and Australia, albeit somewhat exaggerated, have described the altercations between cyclists and motorists as road wars. Whether exaggerated or not, the consequences of this rhetoric are potentially serious for the growth of cycling: rhetorical battles may only serve to feed yet more negative perceptions about the safety of going cycling on car-dominated roads. Ultimately, the rhetoric of ‘road wars’ could discourage cycling. In seeking to avoid this outcome, social marketers can design interventions to increase harmony between road users. However, early attempts at encouraging harmony such as Delaware’s ‘Share the Road’, and Scotland’s ‘Nice way Code’ campaigns have not been regarded as successful. Hence, a crucial first step in improving this track record is to understand more fully the rhetorical context of the problem.

The aim of this research is to critically analyse the on-line and media rhetoric surrounding the ‘road wars’ issue. Using Braun and Clarke’s five step thematic analysis approach, researchers will seek to uncover insights that will help generate social marketing solutions. Whilst initial coding has been completed ‘bottom-up’ using a grounded approach, the data will henceforth be analysed using a theoretical framework consisting of social representation theory, and theories of in/out group representations, stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination.


Tapp, A., Rundle-Thiele, S., Anibaldi, R., Warren, S., & Beardmore, A. (2014, December). Road wars? The role of language in perceptions of bikes and cars sharing the road: Possible implications for social marketing interventions. Paper presented at Australian Association of Social Marketing Conference (ANZMAC)

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name Australian Association of Social Marketing Conference (ANZMAC)
Start Date Dec 1, 2014
End Date Dec 3, 2014
Publication Date Dec 1, 2014
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords social marketing, motorists, cyclists, sharing road space, content analysis
Publisher URL
Related Public URLs
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : Australian Association of Social Marketing Conference


ANZMAC paper Road Wars.docx (32 Kb)

Tapp_Rundle-Thiele_Anibaldi_Warren and Beardmore (2014) Road wars.pdf (238 Kb)

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