On 26 September we held a workshop in Bristol attended by over 30 practitioners from the four local authorities in the West of England. These authorities have been pioneering ‘smarter choices’ policies and actions to influence travel behaviours at the time of life transitions (moving to secondary school, starting university, moving home, starting new job) through a wide ranging programme of Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) initiatives. Examples of this include Travel Information Packs for new home owners, events promoting cycling to new students and free sustainable transport options to help those searching for work.
The workshop was initiated by Phil Wright, the LSTF Engagement and Support Services manager for the West of England local authorities, who has also been a member of the Life Transitions project steering group. The objectives of the workshop were firstly, to ensure that LSTF practitioners working in the West of England were aware of our findings (which demonstrate how life transitions are drivers of travel behaviour change and the circumstances where this is the case) and secondly to facilitate a workshop discussion to generate new ideas on how ‘smarter choices’ initiatives can target transition opportunities, drawing on the new evidence.
After a presentation of the project findings, attendees discussed implications in groups relating to specific policy and delivery areas (schools, communities, business engagement, travel advisors and policy). Each group fed back their ideas at the end of the session.
There was a consensus that the study findings validated the initiatives that have been pursued through the current LSTF programme and supported the case for continuing to invest in such initiatives. A wide range of new ideas was put forward and we have summarised a few of the suggestions at the end of this post under each theme. We look forward to seeing how they can be taken forward.
Overall, the event proved to be a valuable opportunity for the research team to draw on practitioner expertise and to examine the policy and delivery implications of the findings in some detail. The event was also seen to be of value to the local authorities. As Phil explained, “the importance of disseminating this piece of research to those in delivery cannot be understated. It gives confidence that what is being delivered is the correct approach and helps to identify new approaches”.
Suggested policy initiatives
- The move between schools (e.g. primary to secondary) is an opportunity for travel behaviour change amongst parents as well as children.
- Travel packs for pupils starting at a new school after a house move could help them settle in.
- Schools are also employers and encouraging staff to switch to walking or cycling at the start of a new year/term would provide an example for children.
- Travel support could be provided through/alongside housing associations given that they have knowledge about new residents moving in, especially if transport facilities (e.g. cycle storage) can be improved at housing association properties.
- When people are diagnosed with health conditions this often alters their lifestyles and activity needs. Travel support could be welcomed at these times.
- Travel support could be helpful for future parents (at antenatal classes for example), given changes in mobility requirements around this time. It could also be helpful to parents returning to work after paternity/maternity leave.
- Consider rewarding active travellers to encourage them to sustain active commuting year-round and for the longer term.
- Employer travel planning initiatives should be inclusive of temporary workers (who are often in transition) and may be most effectively targeted at younger workers who are shown to experience more life transitions.
- Smaller local businesses situated within local neighbourhoods may have higher potential for active commuting amongst their workforce.
- Travel advisory services would be helpful for people going through redundancy (some of whom lose access to a car) and help them to return to work.
- New start-up businesses could particularly benefit from travel planning support to increase access to the labour market or to increase business efficiency.
- Travel advice should be made available to visitors via hotels and other short-term accommodation. Visitors are likely to lack information about how to get around and could be future residents.
- There is a market for urban lifestyles with reduced reliance on the car and this needs emphasising to property market where a commercial case could be made for providing facilities for car alternatives.
- Use could be made of council tax registrations as a means of identifying households undergoing change and targeting them for information and advice.
- Travel planning with residents of new housing developments could benefit from co-ordination with major nearby employment sites which are likely to have attracted new residents to the developments.