Eliciting citizens’ priorities for active travel infrastructure investments: A qualitative analysis of best-worst scaling experiments

Fahad Albahlal, Paul Haggar, Dimitris Potoglou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: The built environment plays an important role in individuals’ propensity to walk and cycle and local authorities increasingly invest financial resources towards its development. Organisations responsible for the built environment have developed auditing tools as guidelines to inspect routes and identify improvements to support active travel. 

Methods: Using these auditing tools as a starting point, this study developed 21 walking and 25 cycling investment-relevant factors that were embedded into two choice-based survey instruments, respectively. The study used cognitive interview pre-testing to internally validate a preference-based elicitation approach known as Best-Worst Scaling (BWS), which aimed to capture pedestrian and cyclist preferences. We report findings from cognitive interviews (data analysed thematically) with 20 participants (10 pedestrians and 10 cyclists). 

Results: In both sets of interviews, four themes emerged regarding how the participants approached the BWS task and five themes related to the understanding of the factors. The BWS choice tasks required refinement regarding the ‘frame of reference’, ‘travel context’, the ‘decision-making strategy’, and the ‘concrete thinking’ (finding some factors easier to interpret). Additionally, issues with understanding the factors, the wording, ‘overlapping’, negatively phrased factors, and technical jargon all pointed towards the need to refine auditing tools if these were to be introduced in a preference elicitation context. 

Conclusions: This study helps to empirically uncover how citizens interpret infrastructure related aspects of walking and cycling by pointing to nuanced aspects that auditing tools may miss. The findings also helped develop an internally consistent preference elicitation survey-instrument that any local authority can implement to determine which walking and cycling infrastructure investments are a priority in their area.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101795
JournalJournal of Transport and Health
Early online date25 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Mar 2024

Data Availability Statement

Data will be made available on request.


  • Best-worst scaling
  • Cognitive interviewing
  • Cycling
  • Cycling infrastructure investment
  • Walking
  • Walking infrastructure investment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Transportation
  • Pollution
  • Safety Research
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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