We developed and tested a simple online intervention to increase motivation and to encourage making plans to swap a local journey from the car to walking or cycling, that resulted in significantly higher levels of active travel.
Increasing active travel (primarily walking and cycling) is an important strategy for supporting population health and has substantial environmental benefits, including reducing pollution and traffic congestion.
The Local Government Association (LGA) funded six local authorities from Yorkshire and Humber to form a consortium and to work alongside behavioural science experts from the Centre for Behavioural Science and Applied Psychology (CeBSAP) at Sheffield Hallam University to design and test a theory-informed intervention to increase active travel across the Yorkshire and Humber region.
Informed by the Behaviour Change Wheel, focus groups were conducted with residents in each of the six local authorities to identify the barriers and facilitators for active travel. Researchers from CeBSAP then worked alongside the local authorities to design and test two interventions that addressed those identified needs. The two interventions were:
- Motivation intervention: An intervention to increase motivation to increase local active travel by asking people to reflect on their personal motivations.
- Motivation plus goal setting/ planning intervention: An intervention to increase motivation, support people to set a goal to swap a car journey with walking or cycling, and to identify a barrier that might get in the way and to plan how to overcome this.
The two interventions were tested in a randomised controlled trial against a control intervention, across Yorkshire and Humber in January – March 2022.
We found a significant increase in the percentage of active journeys at follow-up (2 – 4 weeks later) compared to baseline for those in the motivation intervention, and for thåose in the motivation plus goal setting and planning intervention. There was no significant difference in the percentage of active journeys at baseline and follow-up for the control condition.
Professor Maddy Arden, Director of the Centre for Behavioural Science and Applied Psychology, led the study.
Professor Arden said: “Focusing on your personal motivations for active travel and then making a simple plan to swap a car journey for an active journey was enough to increase the proportion of actively travelled local journeys. These small changes could make a big difference to our local communities and have substantial environmental benefits”
You can read the full report here: Using behaviour change techniques to encourage active travel (local.gov.uk)
You can also access a recording of our webinar here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-owwuxfSSdY