Contested Urban Street Space - Exploring the relationships between road user behaviour, walking and cycling infrastructure, and highway regulations

Lead Research Organisation: University of the West of England
Department Name: Faculty of Environment and Technology


The future of sustainable transport relies on an understanding of behaviour in relation to interactions within the transport environment and the choice of means of transport. Social behaviours within the public realm are influenced by the law and regulation, and by the design of the environment (such as the degree of mixing or segregation of different user types). The most likely theory to be useful to assist in researching behaviour within the legal and environmental context is Behaviourism (Watson, 1930), a theory of learning that assumes behaviours are acquired through conditioning, and which result from interactions with the environment.

The research will hypothesise a model of the relations between design, regulation and behaviour which may be used to illuminate further understanding about appropriate future direction in design and regulation with the aim of developing more sustainable transport futures. The aim of the research is to investigate the behaviour of all road users navigating within or adjacent to walking and cycling infrastructure in the context of the regulations that shape its use.The aim is supported by the following provisional research questions:
1. How does:
a. behaviour influence infrastructure design and regulation?
b. regulation influence infrastructure design and behaviour?
c. infrastructure design influence regulation and behaviour?
2. What effect are new and emerging standards, guidance and regulation having on design?
3. What law and regulation still constrains scheme designs?
4. What are the attitude and approach of the police and legal profession to walking and cycle traffic?
5. What processes can be adopted to trial innovative walking and cycle traffic schemes?
6. What is the nature of public discourse relating to pedestrian and cycle traffic schemes?
7. What can be learnt from the experience in other North European contexts?

The provisional proposed research methods include the following:
- Focus groups among homogeneous and heterogeneous groups of road users (RQ1)
- Semi-structured interviews with different groups of road users (RQ1)
- Key informant interviews with professionals in the UK, including designers, planners, the police, insurers and policy makers (RQs 2 to 5)
- Collation and analysis of design guidance and documents relating to highway and traffic law and regulation (RQs 2 to 5)
- Collation and analysis of media reporting on the public discourse relating to pedestrian and cycle traffic schemes (RQ 6)
- Reference interviews to learn from other North European contexts (RQ 7)

The research has significant potential to inform future highway regulation and infrastructure design, particularly for cycling and walking. By exploring the behaviours of road users as they respond to infrastructure design, regulation and other road users, the research may also be informative for future developments of the Highway Code, and driver and cycle training. Dissemination would take place through professional and other networks of which UWE is a member.

Year 1: review literature, establish theoretical basis, develop the methodology, obtain ethics approval
Year 2: further develop and pilot the methodology, start data collection
Year 3: complete data collection, analyse the data, write up


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publication icon
Flower J (2019) Understanding attitudes to priorities at side road junctions in Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1938130 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2021 Jonathan Flower
Description Bristol City Council officers presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presented emerging findings from my PhD research on continuous footways and cycle tracks across side roads to officers at Bristol City Council. This included, Transport Planners, Walking and Cycling Officer, Health and Safety Officer and Highway Engineers. The council want to start installing continuous footways and are keen to know what the current best practice is, what the guidance says and what the regulations are. The officers had numerous questions and realised that they had competing interests that they needed to satisfy (health and safety, needs of different users and appropriate and available materials).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Bristol Walking Alliance presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact I presented the findings of my MRes (from my 1+3 studentship) research under the title of 'Simpler, Safer Junctions for All' to the Bristol Walking Alliance, a membership based campaigning organisation for better walking facilities in Bristol. I have since been invited to join the executive committee, at City Hall, Bristol. There was interest from the group on how side roads can be improved for crossing pedestrians across the city. Some sub-groups (such as those representing visually impaired people) were concerned that any changes would also be positive for their members.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Written evidence to the Trasnport Select Committee's Active travel inquiry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I made a submission as written evidence to the Trasnport Select Committee's Active travel inquiry based on the paper I had published based on my MRes (part of my 1+3 studentship) research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019