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Cycling on the Verge? Exploring the Place of Utility Cycling in Contemporary New Zealand Transport Policy

Efforts to increase cycling as a mode of transport (utility cycling) occur at central, regional and local levels of government through a range of supportive strategies, research, and guidelines. Despite these efforts, utility cycling levels in New Zealand have remained persistently low. This thesis examines the apparent disparity between policy intent and policy result, using a discourse analytical approach. It examines how cycling is positioned in contemporary New Zealand transport policy documents, and explores whose priorities are shaping transport policy with what implications for utility cycling. This study uses a critical discourse analysis (CDA) approach to analyse the land transport documents from across the institutions of government. The CDA approach, grounded in the work of van Dijk and Fairclough, draws on ideas from the interpretive tradition of discourse analysis, inspired by Foucault’s concepts of knowledge and power. This approach reveals the position of utility cycling by exposing the framing, dominant discourses, and discursive strategies that privilege certain transport objectives and activities over others. The findings show transport is promoted almost exclusively by central government as an activity to facilitate economic growth and efficiency, despite its potential (and actual) impacts on health and well-being, social justice, and environmental sustainability. The discursive practices of the government privilege private motor vehicle use, helping to both legitimate and maintain that privilege at all levels of government, while positioning utility cycling as a marginalised mode of transport. This thesis contributes to scholarship on utility cycling and land transport policy in New Zealand by identifying how the discursive strategies of government control the position of utility cycling in New Zealand. This study underscores the need for a central government-led, long-term strategic vision for a genuinely integrated, multi-modal transport system, in order for the benefits of utility cycling to be fully maximised.
Type of thesis
Smith, M. (2014). Cycling on the Verge? Exploring the Place of Utility Cycling in Contemporary New Zealand Transport Policy (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9003
University of Waikato
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