Encouraging healthy and sustainable travel in a university setting and beyond

  • Gus Bosehans

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Higher education institutions are major trip generators and thus contributesignificantly to local greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate the global warming effect. The present research has been funded with the specific aim of finding ways to encourage healthy and sustainable travel in a university setting. To this end, the thesis commences by providing the reader with important contextual and theoretical information that is needed to understand people's travel behaviour in a review of relevant literature.The first part of the thesis, consisting of a series of three studies, then addresses a real-world applied problem involving public transport users. Contrary to popular belief, the research presented in the first part of the thesis suggests that, despite usually being regarded as a desirable alternative to the car, public transport is actually not a desirable means of transportation for particular groups, especially given that healthier and more sustainable alternatives (i.e. walking and cycling) are available. The first study examines students' experiences and motivations with regard to bus use, which were subsequently used to segment bus users into distinct groups (Study 2). Based on Studies 1 and 2, asmall-scale intervention to promote walking to campus was administered (Study 3), suggesting that most public transport trips could be replaced by active travel, if users are sufficiently motivated and informed prior to making other commitments, such as purchasing a bus pass. Using the university as a case study, the thesis then moves on to consider more abstract topics, including supra-modal mobility styles and implicit affective associations between travel modes and specific positive versus negative emotions.A continuously growing body of research proposes the influence of variouspsychological factors on travel behaviour and mode choice including psychological constructs such as attitudes, environmental concern or social norms. At the same time, social marketing approaches, distinguishing different groups of travellers based on their individual attitudes and travel behaviour, have gained in popularity to identify groups of users with varying mode switching potential. The work presented in the second part of this thesis (Study 4) develops this issue further, yet not by distinguishing mobility types based on people's attitudes towards particular modes of travel or their travel behaviour per se, but rather by focusing on individuals' goals and values instead. That is, one of thecore assumptions of the current work is that all (travel) behaviour is goal-directed and that individuals can be broadly distinguished into distinct supra-modal mobility styles, or mode-independent types of travellers, respectively, representing unique combinations of goals and preferences. The latter, in turn, are then negotiated with people's surrounding context or environment, resulting in either a match or mismatch. Subsequently, this research was complemented by an investigation into people's implicit affective associations with different modes of travel so as to reveal the presence (or absence) of commonly held biases towards specific travel modes (Study 5). However, in line with expectations, a predisposition towards certain modes of travel did not emerge.Based on these studies, general lessons for the promotion of sustainable travelbehaviour, beyond the limited context of campus-based universities, are drawn and recommendations for future research are made. At the same time, however, the thesis also acknowledges external constraints on behaviour that tend to be beyond individuals' control. Consequently, the reader should bear in mind that not only behavioural, but also technological and urban design solutions will be required to make current transportation, focused on private motorised transport, more sustainable in the future.
Date of Award5 Mar 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorIan Walker (Supervisor)


  • Sustainability
  • Transport choice
  • Segmentation
  • Goals
  • public transport
  • Urban design

Cite this