Thoughts for the day: commuting, ‘peak car’, green attitudes

July 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

P1010383_SmallDetailed read at outlining research by Eve Bratman & Adam Jathav on commuting. It’s about how low-income commuters view cycling, not popular amongst urban poor; in the US, it’s typically white people from wealthier areas who ride bikes to work (I paraphrase). Predominant barriers include physical safety concerns, distance and comfort, linked to greater travel times/distances travelled of lower-income folk, and the fact that they’re more likely to use public transport. But the big factor is that respondents of all income groups consistently “ranked car ownership as the most desirable” of transport mode options – a significant proportion rejected car-sharing – and “suggests that, for low-income people, cars may have merits beyond simple cost-benefit use calculations. Automobility remains a paradoxical cultural and status symbol, such that while wealthier people increasingly reduce their car dependency, poor people still aspire to car ownership.” The authors recommend gradual policy changes, a focus on making muti-modal transport easier (i.e. being able to put bikes on trains, as with the Berlin S-Bahn, pictured?) and recognising that “excessively denigrating automobiles might hinder cycling adoption” and that “the rationale that leads some poor people not to desire a car-free lifestyle is likely very different from the rationale of planners and advocates who do.”

  • So the government is (at last) going to lead by example… to some extent. Announced today, plug-in cars and vans to join all governmental fleets, and a first batch of 150 vehicles. A further 135 will go to wider public sector fleets such as the NHS, councils and police forces in the autumn, and charging points are being installed, including on Downing Street and in the Whitehall area. No specific news as to whether parliamentary limos are going to be traded in for, say, Leafs (Sunderland-built!) as yet, however.
  • Latest on the “peak car” debate – car use is intrinsically related to economic and structural issues, there are a lot of divergent trends, not much convincing evidence to support some of the hypotheses, and no consensus as to whether it’s actually happening… Reports from a roundtable discussion in London collated in a paper published by the University of the West of England.


  • What makes us act green? Findings from an 18-month ESRC-funded research project on sustainable behaviour presented here; lots of interesting data and insights on commuting and transport use in relation to eco-friendly attitudes.
  • For those pondering car-sharing from a marketing point of view: some discussion and social media activity around the mysterious Car2Go ‘black cards’…

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