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Why behavioural change is integral to sustainable transportation 

Sustainability By Abi Lindsay, Consultant, Transportation – 21 September 2022

A man in a suit crossing the pedestrian on his way to work while holding his bicycle

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Abi Lindsay

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In a perfect world, we have the tools to design a sustainable transportation system which integrates active travel. We already have solutions that can be implemented and have further technology emerging that will create even further solutions.

But this isn’t a perfect world, and the vast majority of time we don’t have a blank canvas to design and implement the sustainable solutions that are needed because each location poses challenges outside of these sustainable transportation strategies. In that ‘perfect world’ scenario, where no restrictions are imposed, designs can include the ability for sustainable transportation in addition to ensuring the systems are well connected and integrated.

So, while we know how to do it, there are massive challenges that prevent us from creating that ideal sustainable world. In reality, we face policy changes, lack of existing infrastructure (especially within rural locations), growing population, and most importantly, a resistance to change which is innate to human behaviour.

A key objective for the transportation industry is moving behaviour away from private car use towards public transport, and as far as possible towards active travel. As highlighted, a big challenge is encouraging behavioural changes within society to happen. Without this behavioural or cultural change, we can’t truly achieve zero carbon with transportation.

When we initially embarked on Zero Carbon Design 2030 (ZCD2030), I had these challenges at the forefront of my mind especially as we were already discussing with clients the solutions that we knew we could implement. But how would we be able to overcome these challenges in a relatively short amount of time?

Only one year into the journey, and we have already seen small steps taken to break down these challenges. As mentioned, behavioural change is key and an underpinning theme of how we will achieve ZCD2030 in transportation, however we are already seeing progress being made. Clients are acknowledging the importance of zero carbon design in the built environment and therefore are coming to us for our expertise and guidance. This brings forth an exciting future of how we can work collaboratively across the industry to achieve more and implement better sustainable practices. 

In saying this, whilst the positive and proactive attitudes and discussions that are beginning to take place are encouraging, I know we still face the challenge of putting the wheels in motion and seeing the implementation of the infrastructure required to enable sustainable and active travel.

Cundall’s transportation team was recently accredited by ActiveScore – the world’s leading system for assessing and certifying active travel provisions in buildings. Our accreditation means we are experienced in undertaking the preliminary review of a development (existing or proposed) to establish the level it is currently at and suggest improvements to strengthen their certification. This allows us to guide and assist our clients in achieving their ActiveScore certification. 

We recently assisted Three Chamberlain Square in achieving a Platinum ActiveScore certification. I liaised with the wider design team to gather and collate all the required evidence needed to demonstrate how the development meets the ActiveScore criteria. Part of this process included collaborating with the design team to set out and incorporate realistic and achievable improvements to strengthen their application. 

One key challenge which stood out was the limitation of space. Within sustainable design, we need to ensure that the needs of the future can be met – this carries through to transportation aspects including cycle parking whereby unused space needs to be retained to allow for additional cycle parking facilities should the demand arise. Whilst in theory this seems easy, space is highly valuable in all design elements and therefore a trade-off has to made to determine what space allocation is realistic.

As with all industries, challenges will occur. However I believe achieving zero carbon design within transportation is possible. Collaboration within the industry together with creative thinking will be the focal point of implementing these practices, and with time I hope to see this filter down into policy.

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