How can we decarbonise our transport systems? And is re-allocating road space the key to breaking the link to car-dependency? 
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At Lynn, we have a singular mission: to use behavioural science positively, for public good, and to improve and save lives. 

We know we are in a climate emergency. Our dedicated climate change and sustainability practice, Lynn Planet, was launched because we need innovative, integrated solutions to achieve positive change. 

People and communities lie at the heart of our transition to a net-zero emissions target. Around a third of emissions reductions by 2035 will come from individuals and communities adopting sustainable behaviours and lifestyles. Empowering them to be active participants of this changing landscape will be crucial to success. 

We need to help people understand why climate mitigation and adaptation efforts matter to them.

By taking a human-centric approach, policy makers and urban planners can help our audiences:

  • Move from cynicism to engagement
  • From complacency to active citizenship
  • From polarisation to solidarity

Why are people dependent on their cars?

Before we discuss whether road-space reallocation is the key to cracking our car-dependency, we need to understand why people are dependent on their vehicles in the first place.

  • Do they have the right capabilities, both physical and psychological?
  • Do they have the right opportunities, both social and psychological?
  • Do they have the motivation to perform the behaviours that we desire to see?

Some might ask – if a shift to ultra-low emission vehicles provides a considerable reduction in transport-related emissions, then why reallocate road space at all? 

The answer is because our cities of the future are being designed to be more than just carbon neutral. Our cities of the future will be zero waste and circular. They will be biodiversity positive. They will be spaces which promote the physical and mental health of its residents. Spaces with cleaner air, cleaner water and greener terrains. These cities will empower vulnerable communities and improve their social and economic mobility, in turn reducing health inequalities. So when we are redesigning our cities of tomorrow, our urban spaces should prioritise people and nature, not cars.

This is challenging because cities need to work within existing infrastructure. Research shows that parking and road space take up as much as 60% of public space in major cities across the world.

In our view, city planners find themselves stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle which makes it difficult to rid ourselves of our addiction to automobiles. Higher car use leads to more traffic congestion; the increased demand justifies more roads and wider roads. So funds and tracts of land, which could have been used to develop public transit systems or green spaces, are allocated to automobile infrastructure projects. And in turn, the freedom to live functional lives without the use of a car is greatly reduced. And the cycle continues.

So it’s not just social and cultural factors that contribute to our increased car dependence, but also economic factors and physical infrastructure considerations – all reinforcing one another.

We need to break this cycle. 

Our behavioural insights demonstrate that by better understanding our audiences – all of us human beings – and our natural ways of thinking; worries, motivations, influences, and the opportunities to engage in a truly meaningful way, can vastly improve adoption of climate-positive behaviours.   

Our work also showcases the importance of agency. It is important to promote freedom and choice to all individuals, educating them why they need to engage and the benefits to them, their families, and their communities, to build sustainable behaviours – behaviours they have chosen to adopt, and therefore have a much higher propensity to stick and become a habit. 

I will conclude with a thought put forward by Gustavo Petro, Mayor of Bogotá – “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation”

Shayoni Lynn FCIPR FPRCA CMPRCA

CEO & Founder
Lynn Group

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