UWE presentation, 3rd July 2014

Changing Commutes: an agent-based model using practice theory to explore uptake of cycling to work


James Woodcock (CEDAR), Ali Abbas (CEDAR), Rachel Aldred (University of Westminster)

Presentation to UWE Centre for Transport and Society, 3rd July, 12:30-2pm

This talk presents work carried out as part of the ESRC Changing Commutes project. We have created an agent-based model of cycling to work, drawing on practice theories. We see practices such as cycling to work as being comprised of bundles of ‘stuff’, ‘skills’ and ‘meanings’. Our model abstracts from a variety of stuff, skills and meanings to focus on an interaction between ‘safety stuff’ and ‘danger meanings’, identified as particularly important in the UK context.

Agents within the model have a changing view of the danger associated with cycling, along with a personal danger threshold that increases with age. Their perception of the danger associated with cycling is shaped by experiencing, or hearing about, cycling incidents (for example, injuries and near misses, which are related to the quality of the cycling environment). Agents also possess cycling-related safety stuff, along with a belief about what level of safety stuff is necessary for cycling. This is shaped by their observation of cyclists and by interactions with others in their social network.

We will present this model and discuss its strengths and limitations. It is abstract; it does not include most relevant factors usually included in transport models, and it is not intended as a predictive model. However, we believe it contributes to understanding important processes shaping uptake (or not) of cycling in contexts such as the UK. It can also be used to explore how the stuff-danger dynamic might impact on different types of interventions (such as providing safety stuff, or improving the cycling environment).

As part of the presentation, we will briefly cover how we have used social theory and qualitative data in analysing the stuff-danger relationship and developing the model structure. We will also introduce our approach to model analysis, including using individual agent trajectories as vignettes/narratives.

Dr James Woodcock leads the Public Health modelling group at the Centre for Diet and Activity Research, University of Cambridge. Much of the work of the group is focused on using to models to help understand both the potential health impacts from changes to walking and cycling and how such changes might be brought about.

Ali Abbas works as a Research Associate at the Public Health Modelling Group at CEDAR, University of Cambridge. He is a modeller whose work involves building individual based models focussing on social learning and adaptation towards better public health. He is interested in developing good understandings for an environment friendly and sustainable transport system.

Rachel Aldred works as a Senior Lecturer in Transport at the University of Westminster. She has a background in Sociology and has been involved in a range of funded research projects, including leading the ESRC Seminar Series Modelling on the Move and the ESRC project Cycling Cultures. She tweets at @RachelAldred and blogs at rachelaldred.org

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