UWE researcher wins prize for paper on carfree development

Issue date: 29 January 2010

Steve Melia A transport researcher from the University of the West of England has won the 2010 Smeed Prize at the Universities Transport Study Group conference.

Steve Melia's paper was based on his PhD thesis on the potential for car free development in the UK. The prize came with a cheque for £400, half of which Steve has donated to Carfree UK, an organisation which promotes carfree development in Britain, of which he is the Coordinator.

His research took him on a 5,000 mile cycle trip around Northern Europe where he visited car free communities. He visited Vauban, a car free district in Freiburg in Germany, widely regarded as Europe's greenest city. The groundwork he carried out there has paved the way for a growing relationship between town and transport planners at UWE and the City of Freiburg.

Steve said, “I was delighted, and rather surprised, to win the prize. I couldn't ask for a better way to start a new job! Carfree development is an idea whose time is about to come in this country. My research shows there is potential demand, mainly concentrated in larger cities, and a policy of promoting carfree development would bring many important benefits.

“It was a wonderful experience visiting carfree developments like Vauban, and Stellwerk 60 in Cologne. With no traffic to worry about, the streets have been taken over by children, playing, skating, unicycling – and families going shopping with cycle trailers. There's much more community than you'd find in British new developments – most of which are full of cars. This was very much applied research – I want to use it, to help change the way we do things in this country.”

As well as clarifying the definitions of carfree development, the main focus of the research was on understanding the characteristics and motivations of people who might want to life in carfree housing in the UK. The work drew on theoretical concepts such as the 'diffusions of innovation' and explored the issues through quantitative questionnaires and qualitative telephone interviews.

The Universities Transport Study Group conference was hosted by the University of Plymouth earlier this month and is the main annual gathering of academics involved in transport research in the UK.

Steve is now working as a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Environment and Technology and has also joined UWE's Centre for Transport & Society.

For more on Steve's work see

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