Home page, Skip to main content, Help, Skip to sub-navigation

TIHR responds to the House of Lords

We have recently submitted a response to the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee’s call for evidence for behaviour change of travel-mode choice interventions to reduce car use in towns and cities.

Our response draws upon our ongoing work with the Department for Transport and Cycling England through the Evaluation of Investment in Cycling Cities and Towns
(in Partnership with AECOM and University of West England) as well as the Tavistock Institutes of Human Relations’ (TIHR) extensive work on behaviour change.

TIHR’s response discusses the development of broad cultural assumptions that car use is the ‘norm’ mode of transport, which has been informed by policy decisions and the power of infrastructure over influencing travel mode decisions. In many respects, the lack of suitable cycle infrastructure is a result of a ‘vicious circle’ where poor infrastructure has led to fewer people choosing to cycle, which in turn has led to less public demand for suitable infrastructure.

Our response also highlights that behaviour change interventions targeted at individuals have an important place in the overall strategy to change travel choice. However, it is likely that the impact of such interventions will be limited until an understanding of the needs of all road users have been ‘mainstreamed’ in all relevant areas of policy and practice.

The report also illustrates the important role of Local Authorities in delivering behaviour interventions to change travel mode choice. However, in order for this to be effective the numbers of, and seniority of, alternative modes or travel staff and transport analysts need to increase, in addition, levels of engagement with senior management and politicians need to heighten in order to generate buy-in. An environment that supports cross sectoral, cross departmental engagement may be crucial to the mainstreaming of alternative choices of transport choice. At present alternative modes of transport staff are relatively junior and small in numbers. This results in activities such as evaluation of initiatives and interventions not being firmly embedded in the culture and practice of the transport sector.

Underpinning the TIHR’s work are three key principles: (i) that individual behaviour can only be fully understood when seen in the context of a wider ‘system’ of relationships that include a number of different social and organizational structures, often specific to very local circumstances; (ii) that causality in such systems is often ‘complex’ involving multiple influences, and interdependencies that can make causal links indirect and hard to predict; and (iii) and that behaviour of individuals, group and organizations is also influenced by non rational factors (unconscious motivations and pervasive ‘cultural’ norms) which may not be immediately apparent.

Specifically the short response presents:

• the influential drivers of behaviour affecting individual choice of travel mode;
• the role of infrastructure in encouraging and facilitating change in travel-mode choice;
• the developments of the evidence base in relation to changing travel-mode choice;
• the most appropriate types and levels of interventions to change travel-mode choice;
• the most effective agents for delivery of behaviour interventions to change travel-mode choice;
• the current policy interventions addressing psychological and environmental barriers to change;
• whether policy interventions are appropriately designed and evaluated;
• the lessons that have been learned and applied as a result of the evaluation of policy; and
• the lessons learned from interventions employed in other countries in regards to behaviour change.

For further information on anything contained within this article, please contact Dione Hills D.Hills@tavinstitute.org

Evidence Related to Behaviour Change

Back to top