Engaging citizens in low-carbon travel across Bristol

The Active Travel Team at Bristol City Council are responsible for community and business outreach to increase public transport, cycle and on foot journeys. They were keen to see if there were other approaches and techniques the travel officers could deploy when out and about.  

The team commissioned a two-hour interactive session where ideas were captured on an online Mural white board. 

We showed the team different behavioural science principles and case studies, encouraging them to consider how they could apply these to their community engagement and outreach work. 

Key insights from the participants 

The team identified areas of the work that they could amplify more of: 

Using positive descriptive norms: Rather than talking about what behaviours to stop, focusing on the behaviours to adopt and do more of – this avoids loss aversion and reinforces the desirable behaviours. 

Storytelling: Sharing their own personal stories and those of others to personalise the benefits of active travel and make it more relatable rather than using just facts and stats.  

Social proof: Increasing imagery of women and non-white people cycling so more people see themselves reflected back in cycling imagery and start to feel that it’s an activity for them

Self-monitoring and Goal settings: Apps such Love 2 Ride and Winter Wheelers which give people the chance to set their own targets and monitor their progress two of the core tenants of Control Theory for Health improvements 

Modelling behaviours: Demonstrating that the team are using the cargo bike to transport their kit around

Since the workshop the team have been actively focussing on discussing what people can do to change their travel behaviour, sharing their own stories and experiences. They also now have electric vans for shifts and events that are further afield, and use their event cargo bike for closer events – an example of modeling low carbon travel modes.