APPENDIX 5: SEMINAR ON BEHAVIOUR CHANGE
AND TRAVEL BEHAVIOUR HELD AT THE HOUSE OF LORDS
26 January 2011
Members of the Sub-Committee present were Baroness
Hilton of Eggardon, Lord Krebs, Lord May of Oxford, Baroness Neuberger
(Chairman), Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve, Baroness Perry of Southwark
and the Earl of Selborne. In attendance were Daisy Ricketts (Clerk)
and Rachel Newton (Policy analyst).
The speakers were: Dr Jillian Anable, University
of Aberdeen, Centre for Transport Research); Dr Sally Cairns
(University College London and Senior Research Fellow of the Transport
Research Laboratory); John Dowie (Director of the Regional and
Local Transport Directorate, Department for Transport); Dr David
Ogilvie (Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit and UKCRC
Centre for Diet and Activity Research, Cambridge); Dr Steve
Skippon (Principle Scientist, Shell Global Solutions).
Other participants were: Professor Philip Goodwin
(University of the West of England); Ms Carey Newson (Behaviour
Change Specialist, Transport for Quality of Life).
An overview of current policies to change travel
behaviours to reduce car use (Mr John Dowie)
Mr Dowie noted that available measures for changing
travel behaviour included creating modal choices through improvements
to public transport services and infrastructure, fiscal and regulatory
measures, information provision and marketing. Historically, transport
policy had been focused on infrastructure but there had been an
increasing recognition that alternative persuasive techniques
to change behaviour were also required. He noted that changes
to infrastructure were not as effective in isolation as when combined
with these sorts of techniques.
Past initiatives with the Department for Transport
(DfT) had included small scale demonstration projects but the
future policy direction was towards large scale, integrated policy
packages. The Sustainable Travel Towns programme was introduced
to test the potential of an integrated approach. It ran between
2004 and 2009 and was funded by £10 million of DfT funding
together with £5 million of local funding. The towns of Darlington,
Peterborough and Worcester were chosen after a competition; the
three towns had varying socioeconomic contexts. The towns employed
a range of measures, including personal travel planning, public
transport information and marketing, travel awareness campaigns,
cycling and walking promotions and car clubs. The results across
all three towns showed a 9% reduction in car trips; a 10 to 22%
increase in bus trips; a 26 to 30% increase in cycle trips; and
a 10 to 13% increase in walking trips. The Cycle Demonstration
Towns programme was conducted on the same basis; results demonstrated
a 27% increase in cycling levels across the participating towns.
The Local Transport White Paper, Creating Growth,
Cutting Carbon, published in January 2011,
placed localism at the heart of the transport agenda. The Paper
recognised the need for behavioural change and used the Nuffield
Ladder of Interventions to argue that the starting point should
not be to restrict choice but to enable and encourage more healthy
and sustainable choices. The Local Sustainable Travel Fund would
provide £560 million to local authorities over four years
to build on the previous successful Sustainable Travel Towns and
Cycling Towns programmes.
The DfT was also developing policies on alternatives
to travel to help reduce car use. These included promoting information
and communications technology to reduce the need for travel and
working across the public sector to promote alternatives to travel.
Eco driving was also an area of policy interest.
Embedding learning from behavioural science within
Government was an important concern. An in-house toolkit had been
developed for policy makers in the DfT and knowledge about behaviour
change was being shared with local authorities.
The results from the Sustainable Travel Towns were
discussed further. The percentage increase in cycling was from
a low base. The evaluation was completed at a time when the programmes
were still running and it was not yet clear whether the improvements
would persist. For an investment of only £10 million however
it was considered by some to be a successful programme and to
have provided good value for money.
The meaning of the word "nudge", in the
context of "nudging not nannying", was discussed. It
was suggested that "nudge" ought to be interpreted narrowly
to include only soft or light touch measures. It was suggested
that ministers faced a dilemma because there was a broadly held
view that harder measures were necessary in transport to lock
in traffic reduction. Nudges would not be sufficient alone but
needed to form part of a package of interventions. It was argued
that the Sustainable Travel Towns demonstration showed that light
touch interventions targeted to individuals were complementary
to infrastructure changes.
The discrepancies between the levels of car use in
the United Kingdom and in Continental Europe were discussed. Different
levels of investment in interventions were identified as a key
reason for this.
The role of behaviour change in delivering emissions
reductions (Dr Steve Skippon)
Dr Skippon argued that the effects of carbon
emissions were cumulative and that even modest delays in reducing
emissions would result in a much higher likelihood of a global
temperature rise. The projected trend across Europe was continued
growth in light duty (cars, vans and motorbikes) kilometres travelled.
Shell's transport emissions modelling suggested that, for the
EU light duty sector, the best achievable reduction in carbon
emissions as a result of technology alone could mean that by 2050
annual emissions would be reduced by 80%. However such reductions
would not happen quickly enough to limit the accumulation of carbon
in the atmosphere and so global temperature rises. Changes to
travel behaviour would therefore be necessary in addition to technology
change because they could be implemented early and so have an
impact on cumulative emissions.
A number of ways in which to change behaviour to
reduce emissions from car use were identified, including a reduction
in journeys undertaken, travel mode choice, downsizing of vehicles,
and adoption of fuel-efficient driving styles. Modelling showed
that the changes in behaviour that could be achieved through voluntary
measures, such as public awareness and information campaigns and
travel planning, would have some impact on cumulative emissions,
but not enough. Changes could also be brought about by strong
measures, including measures to encourage modal shift like parking
restrictions, and higher taxes on larger vehicles. Modelling suggested
that these strong measures would be more effective in limiting
cumulative emissions than the voluntary measures. Behaviour change
would not be sufficient in isolation however. The full range of
technological options would also be required if transport's contribution
to global targets was to be approached.
Dr Skippon provided examples of the potential
impact of behaviour change interventions in the road transport
sector in the United States. He stressed that it was hard to translate
conclusions from interventions in the United States, as the opportunities
for behaviour change were very different there. For example, many
more people drove large cars and so vehicle downsizing could have
more of an impact than in Europe.
An introduction to the factors that influence
travel behaviours and the possible mechanisms and interventions
to affect those behaviours (Dr Jillian Anable)
Dr Anable noted that the separation of behaviour
and technology was not a useful polarisation. Travel behaviour
was not just about mode choice but encompassed the sort of cars
that were purchased, how they were driven and how much they were
used. Carbon pathways analysis conducted by the DfT showed that
distance of trips was an important consideration. Short trips
(under 5 miles) accounted for 20% of carbon emission. The Sustainable
Travel Towns project demonstrated that the largest proportion
of total reduction in car use (in terms of distance driven) came
from small changes to the longest trips, although the most significant
changes in behaviour as a result of the programme was seen in
Recent studies suggested that car use had peaked
and that the downward trend in the uptake of sustainable travel
modes was starting to reverse. There was also a drop in the number
of people who held a driving licence. The reasons for these patterns
were not known, although it was noted that a recent survey by
the RAC identified changing attitudes toward travel.
Behaviour change was identified as a two way process,
which was more flexible and volatile than was usually understood:
some people gave up driving and started to use public transport,
and others stopped using transport and started to drive on a continuous
basis. Each decision-making process needed to be targeted differently
to achieve net movement in a sustainable direction.
There had been examples of successful behaviour change,
including the Sustainable Travel Towns project, the London congestion
charge, pedestrianisation and public transport investment. Behaviour
change was shown to result from a combination of many different
determinants, encompassing factors subjective and objective to
the individual, and subjective and objective to the collective.
Interventions had traditionally been classified either
as structural, or collective and motivational. Examples of structural
interventions included fiscal measures, provisions of alternative
modes of transport, regulatory interventions and land use planning.
Examples of collective and motivational interventions included
information provision and social marketing. All of these interventions
should be considered to be behavioural.
Dr Anable explained the language of "smarter
choices" which was used often in relation to travel interventions.
It was commonly understood to include psychological techniques
to influence behaviour through engaging with individuals, rather
than infrastructure. Some of the policy lessons that had been
learnt through the use of smarter choices, including in the Sustainable
Travel Towns programme, were: behaviour change was greater where
service improvements were combined with marketing and promotion;
marketing and information was rarely sufficient on its own; medium
length and commuter trips offered the best opportunity in terms
of car mileage savings; local context and partnerships were important;
behaviour change needed to be locked-in to prevent rebound; and
individual behaviour changes would be diluted by a lack of regional
and national policy consistency.
The strengths of the evidence-base were identified
as case studies, behavioural and psychological studies and econometric
studies. The weaknesses were longitudinal studies, controlled
design, action research, and understanding social practices and
Optimism about technology and pessimism about behaviour
amongst policy makers was not based on good evidence. Policymakers
were not using the evidence when they focused on the individual
and the rational and when they emphasised the evaluation of the
impacts of separate policy instruments.
The availability of systematic reviews of the evidence
about how to reduce car use was discussed. It was suggested that
there was a large volume of material but few high quality methodological
studies, such as randomised controlled trials. The necessity of
randomised controlled trials was discussed. Some suggested that,
while it is not always possible to use them, wherever possible
controlled trials or other high quality methodologies should be
employed. It was noted that it was not always appropriate to attempt
to evaluate the different components of packages of interventions
separately, since a range of measures was often necessary in order
for any change in behaviour to be achieved.
The financial cost of car use was discussed. Perceived
cost was considered to be more important than actual cost, and
initiatives to shift the cost of car use so that it was less fixed
and more directly correlated to distance travelled were discussed.
It was noted that such initiatives would be difficult to introduce
and that the losses to certain groups would be large.
The potential proportion of achievable change was
discussed. Some suggested that change could only be sought on
the margins, in around 5% of the population. Others disagreed,
arguing that there was potential to change the behaviour of 30%
of the population over a period of two to five years.
The impact of age on travel behaviour was discussed.
It was noted that there was a real decline in car use amongst
the elderly and young adults. Amongst the elderly, responses to
stopping using cars varied widely depending on their expectations
and capabilities. Young urban professionals were identified as
a group who tended not to use cars, and this was considered to
be a new trend. There was a high proportion of cycling among this
group, particularly in London. Bicycle brands were becoming more
expensive, which suggested that some people saw a bike as a status
symbol in the same way that many people saw cars. It was not clear
however how the behaviour of young urban professionals would change
as they grew older.
An overview of the challenges of conducting effective
evaluations for interventions designed to change travel behaviours
(Dr Sally Cairns)
Dr Cairns outlined the key questions for an
evaluation to consider: what has happened to travel behaviour;
why have the changes occurred and to what extent can they be attributed
to the interventions; and, what are the wider implications of
those changes. The example of the Sustainable Travel Towns programme
was used to illustrate this.
Evaluating what happened in the Sustainable Travel
Towns was achieved by comparing data from the towns with national
trends. Town data included household travel surveys, surveys in
schools and workplaces, and counts of vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians
and bus passengers. National data used included the National Travel
Survey (specific data for medium sized urban areas) and the National
Road Estimates (urban roads data). The value of triangulation
of data sources was emphasized.
The evaluation of why changes occurred in the Sustainable
Travel Towns was informed by in-depth interviews with those delivering
initiatives, local authority officials, bus companies, those responsible
for data collection and other relevant organisations. Contextual
data was also gathered on the towns, such as population changes
and levels of employment in order to understand what else might
have caused change. Some of this information in relation to bus
use in Worcester was demonstrated in graphical form; the graph
showed the changes in bus patronage relative to the implementation
of different initiatives. It was noted that change had been achieved
through a combination of improvements in services, discounted
fares and promotional campaigns, and it was not possible to assess
the effect that any one of those measures would have had in isolation.
It was noted that no long term follow-up was being conducted in
the Sustainable Travel Towns following the initial evaluation,
but that this could be insightful.
The key lessons identified for future evaluation
were that good practice usually included controls or benchmarking;
triangulation of data sources; and understanding not only what
had happened but the context in which it had happened. Full evaluation
could give invaluable results but was likely to be complex, time
consuming, expensive and not a precise science.
Travel behaviour interventions from a public health
perspective (Dr David Ogilvie)
Dr Ogilvie provided an overview of the evidence
for travel behaviour interventions from a public health perspective.
It was often unrealistic to expect to be able to test the whole
causal chain, from intervention to ultimate health improvement,
within a single study. The benefits of physical activity for health
were clearly established; the greater current challenge was evaluating
the impact of interventions to change travel behaviour on overall
levels of physical activity.
Outcome measures for travel behaviour and physical
activity were not synonymous. Questionnaires were widely used
for estimating physical activity and energy expenditure from the
time or distance travelled, but the precision of these estimates
could be improved by measuring behaviour more objectively using
devices such as accelerometers, heart-rate monitors and Global
Positioning System receivers.
It was suggested that randomised controlled trials
could be applied to some interventions but not all. They were
underused in travel interventions; personalised travel planning
provided a good opportunity for controlled trials but they had
not been used. Sometimes a 'natural experiment' approach was more
appropriate, particularly for interventions such as charging schemes
and infrastructure changes. The Medical Research Council was developing
guidance on the evaluation of natural experimental studies.
The 2009 report from the House of Commons Health
Committee on health inequalities was cited as providing a list
of desirable qualities of a robust evaluation.
Among the most important of these was adjustment for the counterfactual;
even if there were no external control group, other methods were
available for estimating what might have happened without the
intervention. Social distribution of effects was also identified
as an important measure. Behaviours and their impacts were socially
patterned and evaluations should seek to identify which groups
in the population had experienced the benefits and harms of a
The impact of investment in infrastructure was discussed.
It was noted that the Sustainable Travel Towns programme cost
£10 per person per year. In Copenhagen £40 per person
per year was invested in infrastructure and they had far lower
rates of car use. It was suggested that investment was related
to impact. Following the evaluation of the Sustainable Travel
Towns, one estimate suggested an investment of £20 per person
per year in "smarter choice" measures was needed. It
was noted that road user charging does not cost money but rather
creates revenue, though this is only one form of intervention,
which may not be effective in isolation.
It was noted that not only do other European countries
spend more but that they have been spending more consistently
for longer. That had not happened in the United Kingdom; when
something had been shown to work, it had often been stopped. It
was suggested that there was a danger in comparing the United
Kingdom to Europe, as levels of car use in Europe would not be
matched quickly. There was considered to be large potential for
change in the United Kingdom but change would take time.
346 Public health: ethical issues, op. cit. Back
Health Committee, 3rd report (2008-09): Health Inequalities
(HC Paper 286) Back