Media Framing of Fatal Bicycle Crashes in Hillsborough County: A Critical Discourse Analysis

The purpose of this project is to examine the linguistic choices (e.g., vocabulary, grammar, structure) that frame the relationships between bicyclists and other parties involved in fatal crash events, while attending to identity constructions of social actors and interrogating sociocultural contexts (i.e., policy and economy). Through critical discourse analysis (CDA), a rigorous qualitative method that is used to analyze both oral and written communication, researchers identify how linguistic choices form patterns that (re)occur and (re)produce systems of meaning that shape urban landscapes and the social identities of bicyclists and motorists. CDA reveals the “common sense” or “taken-for-granted” lexicon of transportation by examining the nuances of language. Discourse analysts identify language as a site of ideological struggle, putting emphasis on creative outcomes and the prospect of social change. This interdisciplinary study is a unique contribution to transportation literature as it employs a methodology that is typically reserved for communication scholars and linguists. In this study, textual data were collected via media reports of bicyclist traffic fatalities in Hillsborough County, Florida. The Tampa Bay Area has a disproportionately high number of bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities in comparison to other areas of the United States, making it an appropriate and necessary site of transportation inquiry. From January 2009 to June 2018, there were 94 bicyclist fatalities in Hillsborough County. The fatalities reported in Hillsborough County within this ten-year timespan were compiled for coding and analysis, and the bicyclists and drivers identified by names, dates, and locations of crashes. The news reports were coded with software designed for qualitative research, which helped the researchers locate and record repeated textual features in a large quantity of data. Data were then analyzed using Norman Fairclough’s procedure for critical discourse analysis (1989; 2003) to enhance understandings of transportation culture in Hillsborough County. The objectives of the research are to 1.) illustrate the nuances of language that shape (and are shaped by) institutional contexts to maintain social order; 2.) evaluate the social effects of a “common sense” or “taken-for-granted” lexicon of transportation; and 3.) develop strategies for participating in transit-related language practices with the aim of altering public perceptions of bicycle fatalities.

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  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This document was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, University Transportation Centers Program.
  • Corporate Authors:

    National Center for Transit Research

    Center for Urban Transportation Research
    University of South Florida
    Tampa, FL  United States 

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Authors:
    • Bond, Julie
    • Scheffels, Erin
    • Monteagut, Lorraine
  • Publication Date: 2018-9


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Edition: Final Report
  • Features: Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 72p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01720274
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: CUTR-2018-09
  • Created Date: Oct 23 2019 2:19PM