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Policy literature discusses the intersection of media, public opinion, and politics, and their impact on public policy. This study examines if media reports regarding bicyclist and pedestrian crashes appear important in shaping the policy narrative that defines the event. The research seeks to understand the effects of policy narratives on transportation policy decisions to improve the safety of vulnerable road users. The report investigates the relationship between policy narratives that cast pedestrians and bicyclists as “guilty villains” versus “innocent victims” and the policy tools used to improve safety in local communities exist.

Content analysis of different media sources generates the qualitative, coded independent variable, Blame-the-victim, and a qualitative, coded dependent variable, policy tools. The study randomly selects twelve states and gathers 767 news articles related to bicycle and pedestrian crashes for the period 2003-2015. The victim narrative appears more prevalent, but the episodic framing in the narrative indicates that the media reports the crashes as isolated issues without consideration of any environmental factors. This makes the news less important and fails to gather public opinion. The low visibility (< 10% of fatal crashes) and salience provided by the media likely results in the low rate of policy change.

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TRCLC 16-07