Active travel infrastructure design and implementation: Insights from behavioral science

January 28, 2024

Wires Climate Change, 2024

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Replacing car travel with walking and cycling is at the core of the shift to healthier and more sustainable societies. Implementing dedicated infrastructure is a common measure to achieve this aim. But policymakers in multiple countries regularly contend with two obstacles: designing infrastructure that people will make use of and securing public support for implementation. We review and synthesize relevant research from behavioral science that sheds light on how to overcome these two obstacles. Given available literature, we focus on cycling infrastructure. We find that research on moderators of the success of active travel initiatives points to the importance of proximity, connectivity, and safety perceptions, particularly among women, older adults and children. We review empirical findings on which design elements make infra-structure both safe to use and perceived as safe. With respect to public support, we summarize common concerns and review research from behavioral economics and psychology that may help to counter misperceptions of the effects of active travel infrastructure. We also draw on evidence regarding support for climate policy and opinion formation more generally. The paper offers an evidence-based guide for policymakers to design and implement active travel infrastructure, seen through the lens of behavioral science. It also highlights fruitful avenues for future research.