Representing active travel: a formative evaluation of a computer visualisation tool demonstrating a new walking and cycling route

Emma Bill, Graham Baker, Neil S Ferguson, David Drinkwater, Nanette Mutrie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Transport and public health researchers have a shared interest in the promotion
of active travel. Walking and cycling are activities that may help to achieve health
benefits while also contributing to wider sustainability goals, such as a reduction in carbon emissions from transport, improvements in air quality, and reduced congestion. A variety of interventions have been used to promote travel behaviour change, for example, infrastructure change and personalised travel planning. Some researchers have directed their interest towards the potential of technology and visual representation to motivate and engage individuals to increase their sustainability practices. Computer visualisation tools may be an instrument to prompt behaviour change, leading to a shift towards
more active modes of travel. Visualisation technology has been used for many purposes, including raising awareness of global environmental problems, scenario modelling, and the representation of walking and cycling futures. Recently, the availability of large datasets has led to the visualisation of system-usage data from cycle-hire schemes. Elsewhere, various representations of personal journey data have been evaluated in terms of their
capabilities to change behaviour. Currently, it is thought that the technical possibilities of visualisations exceed the knowledge of their correct application. Therefore, methods and guidelines for producing and applying visualisations are required. To our knowledge there has been no evaluation of the use of a visualisation that shows infrastructure change to promote active travel. In this study participants were asked to watch a computer visualisation of a new walking and cycling route in Glasgow. This animated visualisation included an existing segregated cycling facility and pedestrian and cyclist bridge. Eleven
semistructured interviews and two focus groups considered the potential utility of visualisation in promoting a new walking and cycling facility and identified any limitations of this approach and potential improvements. The results suggested that visualisation technology has the potential to stimulate debate on in-journey accounts of active travel and the embodied experience of cycling. The built environment and psychosocial factors that culminate in road-user conflicts were discussed. The perception of non motorised modes of transport as risky was not overlooked by participants, who shared their knowledge of cycling road safety and ‘correct’ walking and cycling behaviours. Participants responded
positively to the appearance of protection from traffic achieved by the new routes. However, many criticised the limited coverage of the visualisation and low traffic volumes. The decision to cycle is often made in the context of real-life constraints that were not replicated fully in this visualisation. Further development of visualisation technology may be needed before it can be used successfully for active travel interventions.

Keywords: active travel, behaviour change, built environment, infrastructure,
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment and Planning B: Planning and Design
Early online date15 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • architecture
  • environmental studies


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