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The UK transport policy menu: Roads, roads, and a dash of multimodalism

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We start by noting the recent history of road transport policy in England and that road building tends to be a default policy of the Department for Transport almost irrespective of which political party is in power. We then set out four main challenges to achieving large scale voluntary travel behaviour change in England.


We firstly contend that a recurring policy of predict and provide with regard to road space to try in any way to meet predicted demand undermines the effectiveness and viability of demand management (and hence voluntary behaviour change) because provision of more road space enables people to retain the habit of car use. So, firstly there is a policy disconnect. Secondly, we consider that support for demand management may be a diversion from the real policy of car provision. Thirdly, we fear that the continued dominance of predict and provide conflicts with the best available evidence, not least that road building has little impact on economic activity and cannot be relied on to kick-start the UK economy, and is the result of the influence of a powerful roads industry lobby. We reflect that the Department for Transport funded a programme and evaluation of three Sustainable Travel Towns which showed substantial voluntary travel behaviour change from car use to walking, cycling and public transport. However, despite the positive results, funding on a massive scale continues to be directed to predict and provide policy instead. So, our fourth challenge is whether voluntary travel behaviour change can be achieved at scale under such conditions.


In order to create the conditions for behavioural change (to healthy travel) we suggest that we may need to consider another behavioural shift - the creation of a social movement. A social movement around transport policy might require an initiation or trigger 'event' of some sort which may be the most effective catalyst for public debate and hence change.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2017

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