This project will focus on electrically-assisted bicycles – also known as pedelecs and e-bikes – that have a small electric motor powered by a rechargeable battery to help propel machine and rider. The amount of assistance reduces with increasing speed and cuts out altogether once the rider reaches 25kmph, or if pedalling ceases. The aim of this project is to understand how people engage with (smart) e-cycling and the issues for policy, design/product development and research that could lead to a higher uptake of e-bikes in the UK, and thereby potentially reduce carbon emissions. The project is positioned at the intersection of more traditional cycling research, mobile media studies and user-centred design, and aims to understand electric cycling as a unique mode of transport, with distinctive potential and challenges in the UK context.
Our lives are governed by ‘fixed’ time schedules with activities aligned to school and work start/end times, public transport schedules, facility opening hours and deadlines. The rise of the ‘anytime’ 24 hour society has led to increased consumption of goods and services, the take-up of non-standard work schedules (e.g., rotating shifts), and a more dynamic approach to activity planning, leading to the constant ‘hectic’ pace of life many of us feel. Coupled to this is how laptops, smart phones and PDAs, linked to ‘social networking’ have revolutionized when, where and how people communicate in work and at home, softening ‘time’ and ‘space’, allowing social relationships to revolve around the appreciation of the relativity of friends and colleagues in personal time.
Travel behaviours have shown considerable resistance to change, but substantial change is needed because reduced emissions cannot be secured from technical innovation alone. Our focus is on a new way to engage with, and ultimately influence, travel behaviours. Instead of appealing to emission reduction (which can feel removed from our everyday experiences), we appeal to people’s wish to improve their own subjective well-being (SWB). Drawing on the behavioural economics concept of experienced utility (EU) and the psychology of health behaviour change, we combine these perspectives with expertise from mobile computing, creative technologies, mathematics and user-centred design to explore an innovative solution to understanding and potentially influencing travel behaviour.
In 2005, the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) introduced a computerised system for reporting MOT (roadworthiness) test results. Since that time, the results of approximately 35,000,000 MOT tests annually have been collected and stored in a Department for Transport (DfT) database. The DfT business plan , published 8 November 2010, promised to make available the “detailed VOSA MOT data” – and on 24 November, comprehensive data was released – consisting of the results of 150,000,000 MOT tests from 2005 to the spring of 2010. Some fields, such as vehicle registration plates and unique VTS (vehicle test station) identities have been withheld from the published data in order to preserve anonymity. However, what remains still contains a wealth of information that is not available in any other data set.
Evidence suggests that we will need to change our travel habits and practices radically if we are to reduce the carbon emissions from transport to meet government and international targets. Technological developments such as hybrid and electric cars will, to some extent, allow us to reduce our carbon impact and maintain current lifestyles, but they cannot provide all of the necessary reductions in emissions, nor quickly enough. Our travel practices – why, where and how we travel – are a function of the many choices that make up our daily lives; it is difficult to untangle them from our patterns of housing, employment, education, leisure and so on. But we must do so if we are to bring about significant reductions in emissions whilst maintaining quality of life