Soft measures to shift modality

Alfred Söderberg

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)

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Traffic accumulated by cars is responsible for considerable problems in our cities. The problem is partly about the negative effects on human health due to harmful particulate emissions, noise, traffic accidents and sedentary lifestyles, partly about the space it occupies, which leads to congestion, and the fact that valuable land is taken up by road infrastructure and parking lots. In a bigger perspective, car traffic also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change.
At the same time, the car is ingrained in our way of life and a necessity for many people's lives to function. Politicians are therefore generally reluctant to limit car use, and as a result, transport planners find it difficult to enforce measures that lead to a significant reduction in car traffic. Attempts are being made with soft measures that encourage people to walk, cycle and take public transport. These measures can, for instance, be to inform about alternatives to car use, marketing new cycle routes, and offering free trial periods with public transport. So far, it has proved difficult to sufficiently evaluate these measures, which has led to scepticism about their usefulness. At the same time, we need to know more about what it is that motivates modal shifts for different groups. Thus, more knowledge about soft measures is needed.

Innovations in the form of smartphones and electric bicycles (e-bikes) have opened new opportunities for soft measures, both in terms of evaluation of these and the potential to influence car use. Furthermore, previous research has shown that it is important to target soft measures and adapt information and marketing to specific target groups, also called segmentation. Against this background, this thesis (including five individual papers) has examined smartphones, e-bikes, and marketing. These three elements have been used in variation to investigate motivation to reduce car use in favour of walking, cycling and public transport, segmenting and targeting, as well as evaluation of soft measures.

Regarding the possibility of smartphone applications to influence travel behaviour,
explored in the first paper, a review of previous research showed that there is potential but that too few studies have been conducted to be able to draw any general conclusions. The paper found that applications need to be customised to the user, provide relevant information and feedback about the user’s behaviour, create a commitment towards its use, and have a user-friendly design. The second paper presented a process evaluation of a project where an application was developed to facilitate sustainable business travel. However, the study showed several weaknesses with the application and the difficulty in evaluating the effect of such a soft measure, which gave lessons about both study design and the development of applications and their implementation in organisations.

In the third paper, we found that marketing for sustainable travel is more motivating if it is aimed at the collective rather than the individual, and contains altruistic messages linked to the environment and health. The respondents’ stated motivation to reduce car use reflected their current car use and attitude towards the environment and various means of transport. This underlines the importance of adapting marketing to the target group. The fourth paper showed that one’s morality towards the climate has a significant impact on the motivation to reduce car use, but habits, travel time and attitudes towards car and bicycle use also play a role. Such factors differ between gender, age, level of education and between urban and rural areas and may be important for the segmentation used for soft measures.

The results from the fifth paper showed that e-bikes have exciting potential to replace the car and contribute to more sustainable travel behaviours. In a field experiment where the participants consisted of frequent drivers, car travel measured in distance decreased by an average of 37% as a result of the participants gaining access to their respective e-bike. The share of cycling of total travel increased by just over 20% on average. The participants measured their travel behaviour and answered survey questions using their smartphones, which contributed to high data quality. Both the effect evaluation of the use of e-bikes and the use of smartphones to measure travel behaviour make a novel and important contribution to the research field on soft transport measures, and the application of these in practice.

The thesis concludes that innovations have great potential to improve soft measures, both as a means for contributing to increased sustainable travel behaviours and as a means of making more rigorous evaluations. The thesis also contributes to the knowledge about how sustainable transport can be marketed, what creates motivation to reduce car use, as well as different perspectives on segmentation and which target groups soft measures can be aimed at.
Original languageEnglish
  • Winslott Hiselius, Lena, Supervisor
  • Adell, Emeli, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date2021 May 28
ISBN (Print)978-91-7895-860-3
ISBN (electronic) 978-91-7895-859-7
Publication statusPublished - 2021 May 28

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2021-05-28
Time: 10:00
Place: Lecture hall V:A, building V, John Ericssons väg 1, Faculty of Engineering LTH, Lund University, Lund.
External reviewer(s)
Name: Olsson, Lars E.
Title: Prof.
Affiliation: University of Karlstad, Sweden.

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Transport Systems and Logistics
  • Social and Economic Geography

Free keywords

  • Soft transport measures
  • Modal shift
  • Innovation
  • ICT
  • E-bikes
  • Segmentation
  • Motivation
  • Evaluation


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