Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Humanities and Social Inquiry


Since the 1970s, cycling advocates and governments across Australia have engaged in measures aimed at increasing levels of cycling in the population. Scholars in a range of disciplines have contributed to this effort by researching the dynamics around cycling participation. Historically, attention from both governments and researchers has focused on factors in the built environment. However, efforts to encourage cycling have seen only limited success, and interventions in the built environment are frequently stymied by community sentiment which can be violently hostile towards cyclists. The contrast between the apparent utility of cycling in addressing social issues adjacent to transport, and the vehemence with which it is resisted, is the paradox at the heart of cycling discourse that remains to be explained. In recent years, there have been calls to shift attention to the socio-cultural environments cycling, and mobility practices more broadly, take place within. This thesis responds to these calls by applying Cultural Studies research methods to cycling’s social and cultural contexts, to understand the dynamics underpinning that paradox and outline a program for future interventions. Within this thesis, I deploy Stuart Hall’s encoding-decoding model to read Australian transport discourses and to analyse historical and contemporary situations. Using the work of Stuart Hall this thesis shows how cycling discourse is codified, and identifies the social, cultural, and political effects of that codification. Codification takes multiple forms, and each chapter highlights a different aspect of the overall coding process. The “dominant code” is used to explain the role of automobility in Australian culture, and the ways it is represented in political discourse. I argue that the problem this presents to cycling advocates is that the image of social life embedded in automobility discourse is accepted as normative and taken-for-granted, which hampers attempts at creating change. The “meta code” refers to the ideological function of paratextual elements of discourse, and is used here to analyse the pre-eminence afforded to policy in cycling discourse. The legitimacy imparted to messages through policy signifies the correctness of the way of conceptualising the problem. Yet cycling policy has failed on a number of fronts, and as such, I argue we need to re-evaluate the role of cycling policy in Australian political discourse. The “oppositional code” is a form of decoding that rejects the messages embedded in media and objects by their creators. This processes is useful in understanding phenomena surrounding dockless bikes, one of the most visible cycling interventions in the past decade. Operators legitimate the presence of their bikes in public space by encoding them through familiar ideas about cycling, but responses to their presence suggest that these ideas were resisted. Lastly, the “negotiated code” refers to how codes, which may be signified in a hegemonic manner, are interpreted and adapted according “situational logics.” Negotiated codings offer an opportunity to create new meanings and communities around cycling practices, and this is demonstrated with respect to ultra-endurance bikepacking races.

FoR codes (2008)

120506 Transport Planning, 200299 Cultural Studies not elsewhere classified

This thesis is unavailable until Thursday, March 27, 2025


Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.