Creating space for action - Supporting behaviour change by making sustainable transport opportunities available in the world and in the mind
The aim of the work presented in this thesis is to contribute to the knowledge of how to create conditions for individuals to change their travel behaviour in a more sustainable direction. Earlier studies point to potential contributions through exploration of the individual’s process of behaviour change, addressing the role of the design of the transport system, as well as investigating the potential effects of enabling structural interventions within the transport system.
The thesis builds on four empirical studies concerning travel behaviour and its relation to the transport system in which the travel is situated. One study had an exploratory character, whilst the other three concerned the introduction of an intervention to support behaviour change. The three intervention studies have been analysed in a cross-case analysis, informed by the findings of the exploratory study.
The findings show that the behaviour change process is one where the individual moves through different stages by actively engaging in activities to reduce uncertainty connected to adopting the new behaviour. Because behaviour is hard to understand and evaluate before it is performed, the way it is concretised when linked to an artefact with the potential to mediate the behaviour is crucial for the adoption. The mediating artefact, the behaviour itself, and the individual’s preconditions all interact during the process, manifesting as fits and misfits and affecting the individual’s possibilities to adopt the behaviour. The individual’s ability to handle the misfits is dependent on the flexibility of the behaviour, the mediating artefact, and the surrounding activities.
Furthermore, the findings show that the interventions supported behaviour change in two of the cases, but not in the third. The two successful cases managed to support the participants throughout the stages of the change process, as the interventions enabled them to engage in the process and to undertake new travel behaviour. This enabling dimension reflects the role of the design of the transport system at large, which affects the possibilities for change by determining which travel behaviours, and which opportunities to engage in uncertainty-reducing activities, are available. For travel behaviour alternatives to become truly available options they need to fit within the overlap of the individual’s action space, i.e. the individual needs to be able to implement the behaviour, perceive it as possible, and be willing to consider it. The creation of new user-adapted travel products and services can play an important role in relation to turning travel behaviour alternatives into available options.
When creating the conditions to support behaviour change, the findings indicate that the necessity to include elements of different character, supporting different process stages and creating both travel alternatives and engagement opportunities. In short: make actions available in the world - create new tools to mediate new travel activities, and make actions available in the mind - make them visible and considerable, make them fit!