ESRI Working Paper

Using Behavioural Science to Design and Implement Active Travel Infrastructure: A Narrative Review of Evidence

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February 14, 2023
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Replacing car travel with walking and cycling lowers emissions, improves air quality and makes communities healthier. Rates of active travel typically increase when dedicated infrastructure is implemented. But policymakers in multiple countries regularly contend with two obstacles: designing infrastructure that people will make use of and securing public support for implementation. This paper reviews and synthesises relevant research from behavioural science that  shed light on how these two obstacles can be overcome. We find that research on moderators of the success of active travel initiatives points to the importance of connectivity and safety perceptions, particularly among women and older adults. We then review empirical findings on how to design active travel infrastructure to ensure both safety and perceptions of safety, which are influenced by design decisions. With respect to public support, we review research from behavioural 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 behavioural science. It also highlights fruitful avenues for future research.