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Saturday
Apr022011

Travel Behaviour Change

 

Join co-hosts Ed Blakely and Rebecca Lehman as they talk to Jonathan Daly of GHD on Changing Travel Behaviour without Changing Minds. Does reducing private car use need to be as hard as quitting smoking? 

By Rebecca Lehman

I had the pleasure of hearing Jonathan Daly’s presentation Changing Travel Behaviour without Changing Minds at the Bike Futures seminar in Auckland. I’ve heard the presentation a few times, but each one has a new, positive story about making cycling cool — a fun transport mode rather than to car commuting

The latest good news story comes out of the fun theory, a crowd-source competition by Volkswagen. The 2009 idea reacts to the financial penalty a motorist recieves from a speed camera. The winning entry in the 2009 competition posited that more people would obey the speed limit, if they had a chance at winning some of the penalty money. The same camera would also snap complying vehicles and enter their driver in a lottery to win some of the penalty! The Swedish National Society for Road Safety actually trialled the idea.

There are many approaches for creating behaviour change. Whilst none of them are perfect they are all at least useful. A case in point is ‘social marketing’. Social marketing has been widely heralded as an effective method of achieving social change in how we travel. However, effective messages are only one of a number of tools which effect the decisions we make. Social marketing relies heavily on the rational model of behaviour which postulates that individuals weigh up the pros and cons of a decision and then act in their best interests. However, humans are less than rational decision makers, not least because of the influence of emotion. In addition, humans don’t react well to being told what to do or what is best for them. So, what is the alternative?

The alternative is known as the ‘context model’ of behaviour change. This model postulates that we exist in an environment of multiple influences (eg culture, regulation, peers and the physical environments). The structure of these environments strongly influences our decisions and behaviours, often on a subconcious level. Therefore, by changing the context in which we make decisions, we can as a result change behaviour. Hence the approach does not attempt to direct or coerce individual behaviour but rather to influence it in a non-invasive and non-dictatorial manner.

The context model is an holistic approach to enabling change which treats the design of cycling infrastructure as an integral part of the behaviour change and therefore views engineers/designers as key ‘change agents’ in the process.

Collaboration and co-creativity are also key components of this approach, recognising the importance and value of specialists, relevant government and non-government agencies, and the community, as makers and shapers.

Everyone involved in cycling planning, design and promotion are (or should be) working towards the common goal of creating a culture of cycling. However, efforts are often disjointed and there is little focus on ‘culture’.

Culture can be changed through interventions which aim to change perceptions and attitudes, establishing new or changing existing social norms. ‘Cultural interventions’, which include the visual arts, music, fashion, literature, poetry, are powerful tools for enabling change, particularly in altering perceptions and attitudes.

However, efforts are often disjointed and there is little focus on ‘culture’.

An emerging behaviour change approach, based on the context model and employing cultural interventions, is known as ‘Cultural Acupuncture’. As the title suggests, the approach is non-linear, focusing instead on identifying the areas within the context which need to be rebalanced.

The approach seeks to change perceptions, alter attitudes, counter negativity, create curiosity and trigger emotion towards cycling and people who cycle.

The ultimate goal is to enable people to think and talk positively (creating buzz) about cycling such that it is considered a normal activity for all journey purposes rather than a subversive activity undertaken by a minority.

Travel Behavior Change