Claire (Who is now famous around Wellington for her victory in getting bikes on trains for free) is now embarking on a much larger, transport behavior change project.
I spent 2 hours last week being trained up to help out with the research. And let me tell you, it is INTENSE. We learned all sorts of weird pshycological things, like how people mimic the behavior of people they like when they are talking to them. I now notice how much of a copy cat I am and am constantly catching myself out mimicking the body language of people I’m around… So much for being a unique individual.
The research itself has provided the basis for most of my conversations last week. I find it fascinating. The myths, habits and defense mechanisms floating around out there are just incredible – as is the number of benefits we all get from using our cars less.
Cars don’t save us time, they cost us time
My favorite quote, from a woman who uses her car non-stop is “I am a busy person”.
After listening to her, it became clear that she was a busy person BECAUSE of her car. She was doing so many extra journeys every day, I hate to think of the percentage of her life she has spent in it.
It was amazing the difference between people with kids, and those without them. Basically people with less time, plan their lives better and waste less time. Those with more time, end up with virtually the same amount left over after they pack it with activities that were a complete waste of their time.
Ditching the car brings so many more benefits
Other people have come up with innovative ways to reduce their car usage and improve their lives – Like the woman who ordered her groceries online when she was pregnant and living up 5 flights of stairs. The delivery people HAD to deliver them to her kitchen, so by choosing internet shopping over the usual car trip, she not only saves money on her groceries and fuel, she saved herself the discomfort of carrying her unborn baby all that way.
But… People are scared of the other options
I don’t think I talked to one person who didn’t want to bike to work. However, EVERY single one of them was terrified of our roads. This is a shocking situation for Wellington City Council to be in. They have a bunch of people who are willing and able to cycle to work, thereby reducing congestion and increasing our overall health levels… And instead they pump more money into roads that don’t have room for cyclists.
I am a member of this group after making the commitment to bike the 7km uphill journey to visit my parents instead of driving it. After three trips where I arrived frightened for my life after cars came right into the curb and forced me to swerve onto the footpath, I gave up.
Busses offer a great alternative, but they are perceived to be late, inconvenient and full of wierdos. Being a regular bus user, I can confirm that there are no more weirdos on busses than anywhere else in the city. They also generally run on time and are becoming more efficient with the addition of the “Snapper Card” payment method.
People are ready and willing to change
Claire’s theory is that mass marketing doesn’t work. We are a nation of drivers and any changes to be made will be made by people individually re-arranging their transport schedule. After meeting several individuals, I agree. People are willing to make changes, for all sorts of reasons. And while the environment is perceived to be a big one, it’s probably far lower on the priority list of these people than you would imagine. Our transport is not just an environmentalists problem, it is one for people who want to spend more time with their kids, who like to be fit, who want to save money and who think traffic jams are one of the most abysmal ways of spending their free time.
From the number of stickers on letter boxes around Island Bay now from people partaking in this research, I think the likes of Claire are making major and sustained headway into how we get around Wellington.