• Tara McGuicken

  • Theme:Transport, Behaviour and Society
  • Project:Getting the timing right: using ‘moments of change’ to promote sustainable travel behaviour
  • Supervisor: Lorraine Whitmarsh ,Sam Hampton
  • The Gorgon's Head - Bath University Logo


Following her BSC (Hons) in Psychology from the University of Bath, Tara graduated from the University of Groningen in 2021 with an MSc in Environmental Psychology. During this time, she worked on a project advising the Dutch Ministry of Finance on how behavioural insights could be used to promote the adoption of second-hand electric vehicles in the Netherlands, and she became passionate about designing and evaluating interventions promoting low-carbon behaviours. Tara was attracted to AAPS CDT because she wanted to gain a deeper understanding of current and future mobility challenges to better recognise how to address them.


  • I learnt how to swim before I learnt how to walk
  • I enjoy spending my free time drawing architectural sketches of buildings
  • I love animals and have done lots of animal-related volunteering, including working in a monkey sanctuary

Getting the timing right: using ‘moments of change’ to promote sustainable travel behaviour

Addressing climate change requires profound behavioural changes, including within transport. Indeed, reducing car use is one of the most impactful mitigation behaviour changes that individuals can make. Yet, travel behaviours are amongst the most difficult to change. This is partly because they are strongly habitual – unconscious routines triggered by contextual cues (e.g., ‘it’s 8am, time to drive to work’) rather than the product of conscious deliberation of alternatives (e.g., ‘which mode of transport would be best today?’). But since habits are cued by stable contexts, changes in context destabilise habits. Consistent with this, research shows that disruptions – whether concerning a person’s life-course (e.g. moving home) or physical or social context (e.g. infrastructure disruption) – provide opportunities to reshape behaviours in new directions. Interventions targeted to moments of change are thus more effective than at other times.


While much research has explored these ‘windows of opportunity’ during biographical life events, such as moving home, retiring, or becoming a parent, less is understood about how exogenously caused, structural disruptions (e.g., changes to physical environments) might disrupt habits and promote behaviour change. This PhD research will thus explore the impact that physical infrastructure disruptions (e.g., road closures) might have on modal shift and travel demand. Further, the project will evaluate the effectiveness of interventions (e.g., the provision of information, free public transport tickets) promoting active travel and public transport that are implemented during such disruptions.


Working with Transport for Wales (TfW), a series of field experiments will be conducted which evaluate the impact of behavioural measures that are introduced alongside physical changes to streets as part of TfW’s South Wales Metro project. Combined impacts of the interventions alongside the structural disruptions on travel mode change will be measured using TfW travel data as well as through the collection of both qualitative and quantitative survey data.

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