Transport myths busted by academics

Issue date: 17 July 2014


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Why do most Park and Ride schemes cause an increase in overall traffic? Why do people living in high density housing make fewer journeys than people in suburbs but still cause more traffic congestion? How does our use of travel time impact on travel choice? Is time spent travelling wasted or can it be a 'welcome gift'? Does an increase in traffic inevitably equal an increase in accident rates?

These are some of the questions posed by Researchers from the Centre for Transport and Society at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) in a series of short films, 'Surprising Things You Never Knew About Transport' which challenge received wisdom amongst the general public and, in some cases, politicians.

The team are on a mission to shine a light on common assumptions around travel and transport and highlight interesting facts and anomalies that affect us all.

The innovative set of teaching films have been produced by leading experts from UWE Bristol's Centre for Transport and Society, a group that researches transport issues, including our motivations and modes of travel, activities whilst travelling, the impact travel has on the landscapes we live in and the success and failures of traffic management schemes.

Dr Steve Melia said, “Many things about transport are surprising. These podcasts aim to bust some of the myths believed by the public or in some cases politicians and decision-makers. Where we live, and what type of housing we live in makes a big difference to how we travel. But many people have a distorted view of housing need. How many households in Britain are families, for example? The answer is only one in five. Two thirds of households have just one or two people.

High density housing, suitable for smaller households, reduces traffic overall but concentrates it in a smaller area. This is the 'paradox of intensification' – a policy that makes things better overall can make things worse in the areas where it's applied.”

Speaking about 'Travel Time', Professor Glenn Lyons says, “On average we spend about an hour a day travelling. It could be a fruitless cost in our lives or it could be a gift to ourselves. Did you know that our treatment of this hour a day both as individuals and policymakers has fundamentally shaped our transport system and society?”

On the subject of 'Safety in numbers' and cycle lanes', Professor John Parkin says, “We tend to think in a linear way as human beings, but, interestingly, the rate of collisions on roads does not vary in proportion to volume of traffic. And surely the infrastructure we develop is all directed to improving the conditions for travellers: this may not always be the case with cycle lanes.”

On Park and Ride, Professor Graham Parkhurst, says, “While many findings from transport research do fit with a 'common sense' view of the world, there are important exceptions, unexpected findings and unintended consequences. Park and Ride services are a good example. A few people use them to shorten their car journeys as intended, but they are outweighed by others who switch from public transport or drive further to reach the Park and Ride.”

The four podcasts pose some interesting questions and give an insightful appraisal of what influences travel habits, delivered by nationally leading experts in the field of transport research; Professor Glenn Lyons, Dr Steve Melia, Professor Graham Parkhurst and Professor John Parkin. The films can be viewed on the UWE Bristol web pages.

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