Frontiers in Transportation: Social Interactions

A presentation given at the Frontiers in Transportation: social interactions workshop in Munich, July 31st – August 4th 2013.

Changing Commutes? Exploring the uptake of cycling to work through an agent-based model focusing on social interactions and social norms

James Woodcock, CEDAR, University of Cambridge
Rachel Aldred, University of Westminster

Cycling could bring a number of benefits, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while simultaneously improving population health and well-being. Cycle commuting is generally low in England but with substantial variation and increases in some areas. However, there is limited evidence on the effectiveness of interventions.
In this presentation we introduce the ESRC funded project “Changing Commutes?”. In this project we are using existing qualitative and quantitative datasets and workshops to develop an agent-based model exploring the potential for transitions towards more sustainable commuting. The model will focus on social influence, social values and social learning, and how these shape commuting practices over time in a heterogeneous population. Data from qualitative studies is being used to develop rules on how people interact with each other and their environments. We are using practice theory as the theoretical underpinning for behaviour. Practice theory explains social behaviours in terms of stuff, skills, and meanings, rather than a focus on planned behaviour or utility maximisation. We will investigate how behaviours might change as policies are implemented and habits disrupted and how change might spread or dissipate in a given context. The model will be parameterised for three English cities (Bristol, Cambridge and Chester) all of which have received investment in cycling but are starting from very different positions.

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