Back to top

Learnings from Six New Landmark Active Transportation Case Studies on the Tools of Change Website


I Summary
II Introduction to the Case Studies
III Citizen/Customer Orientation
IV Audience / Participant Targeting and Segmentation
V Relationship Building, Engagement and Exchange
VI Program Results
VII Learnings
VIII Further Details and Additional Resources

--submitted by Jay Kassirer, General Manager, Tools of Change; President, Cullbridge Marketing and Communications

A version of this feature originally appeared in a presentation at the World Social Marketing Conference held in Sydney Australia, in April, 2015.

I Summary

This article summarizes some key success factors and learnings from six active transportation programs that were recently awarded the Landmark designation by Tools of Change. The Landmark designation recognizes behavior change approaches and programs considered to be among the most successful, innovative, replicable and adaptable in the world. Nominations are screened by Tools of Change staff and the most promising ones are then rated by peer selection panels based on a standard scoring grid.

Three key success factors shared by these designated programs are:

  1. a strong citizen/customer orientation
  2. careful targeting and segmentation
  3. building relationships and engagement over time.

II Introduction to the Case Studies

All six case studies were designed to reduce the use of automobiles (especially single occupant vehicles) by promoting alternative travel choices such as transit, cycling and walking.  

  • The Bicycle Friendly Communities Program (BFC, North America) works upstream, to engage more municipal decision-makers to support bicycling-friendly options and thereby encourage more citizens to cycle more often instead of driving.  It provides tailored advice, goal setting assistance and recognition for making communities more bicycle-friendly.
  • BIXI Bicycle Sharing (N.A.) provides a stylish, easy-to use and relatively inexpensive bike-sharing system.  It engages metropolitan adults to cycle more often for short trips.
  • Love to Ride (U.K. and N.A.) provides tailored resources and support for increasing commuter cycling, staff fitness, and reducing traffic congestion at work. It engages employees to take up cycling, then cycle more often.
  • Portland’s Smart Trips Welcome Program (U.S.A) provides new residents with tailored advice about their local travel options, as well as incentives for trying more sustainable ones. It reduces the rate of drive-alone trips among new residents by increasing their rates of biking, walking, transit, car sharing and carpooling, both when commuting and when travelling within the neighbourhood.
  • Stepping it Up (Canada) gave schools a program for teaching, encouraging and recognizing students for walking and cycling to school, improving fitness and reducing school traffic congestion. It set SMART program behavioural objectives: to decrease the use of student travel by car to and from school by 5% from April 2009 to December 2011, and to decrease car travel by school staff to and from work by 3% during this period.
  • Stockholm Congestion Pricing initiative (Sweden) provides a financial disincentive for driving a car into the city centre during peak congestion times. It also set a SMART objective: to decrease car use on the busiest roads by 10-15% during the period of the pilot study.

III Citizen / Customer Orientation

A strong citizen / customer orientation has contributed to the success of each program. Each program performs or has performed research on attitudes, beliefs, barriers and benefits. For example, BIXI organizers conducted surveys and used market and data research to design a system that would best meet user needs, including where to site its first bike stations.

Ongoing programs have built the required research processes into their ongoing routines. For example, Stepping it Up engaged participating schools to undertake a number of surveys each year, including a paper-based, take-home family travel survey for students' parents/ caregivers; a paper-based student travel survey, completed in class; an online staff travel survey; and an online school administrator survey. Love to Ride has automated the process; it asks all participants that register on its website how often they currently ride, what barriers they face to cycling and what benefits they want to gain by cycling.  

IV Audience / Participant Targeting and Segmentation

Another key to success is the way these programs have targeted and segmented their audiences. The factors that proved particularly helpful include location, age, income, current travel habits, stage of change, and whether or not the household had recently moved.

For example, BIXI identified its target audience as young adults aged 25 to 34 who were white collar workers with median incomes of about $35,000 and regular users of transit. This information helped it design appealing bicycles and docking stations, and to site its first bike stations near where these people lived and worked and close to transit stations. It also led the program to develop promotional partnerships with local transit operators.

Love to Ride provides a rare illustration of the use of Stages of Change Theory for sustainable transportation. It segments its audience into six groups, by stage of change.

  1. Pre-contemplation (non-cyclist): not cycling, not interested in the program
  2. Contemplation (non- cyclist): not cycling yet and considering the program
  3. Preparation (non- cyclist): not cycling yet and has joined the program
  4. Occasional cyclist – cycles occasionally for errands and/or recreation
  5. Regular cyclist - cycles regularly for errands and/or recreation
  6. Regular work cyclist - cycles regularly to work

The barriers tend to be different at each stage and this drives a different intervention for each group. For example, non-cyclists who have to buy their bicycles may face lack of money and uncertainty about what to buy. For them, the program provides access to local bike hire schemes, business pool bike hires, and tax efficient bike ownership and ride to work schemes. Non-cyclists who lack confidence see announcements about free face-to face cycle training for adults, tips and tricks, guided rides, etc. Those who ride occasionally may not know how to change a flat tire and maintain their bikes. Love to Ride offers them, for example, a brief video on how to change a tire; the video is available on handheld computers and tablets too – which can be taken right to the bicycle when doing the repair. It also connects participants with local bicycle maintenance workshops and discounts on bike servicing.

Smart Trips Welcome focuses on residents who have moved within six months, as the new circumstances brought about by relocation necessarily demand changes to daily routines, and thus new residents are more receptive to positive travel solutions. It segments that target population by location, the primary commute mode choice, and primary neighbourhood mode choice. This enables it to provide participants with customized and personalized emails with information that is most relevant to them.

V Relationship Building, Engagement and Exchange

Another reason for success is that all six programs build relationships and engagement over time. The Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) Program approaches municipalities that are not yet members, encouraging them to apply even if they feel they are not ready to be BFC certified. The program emphasizes that its value lies in the application process and the feedback, not simply in the designation. To build collective responsibility, applications are reviewed first by a panel of local reviewers, and then by a panel of expert judges, with residents getting a final opportunity to add comments. To inspire further action in the community, the program provides each applicant with an example of an application from an analogous community that has achieved a higher level of BFC designation, and a suite of programs, projects and policies that can be deployed to make cycling safer in the community. Award designations expire after four years, so communities are encouraged to continue listening to their citizens, innovating and improving.

Love to Ride gathers information from participants when they register on its website, and then uses it to target information and tools for each user so people are moved along their personal journeys of change.
Smart Trips Welcome first informs new residents about the program using three staggered mail-outs which ask and then prompt residents to order from a variety of incentives and free support materials, which are then packaged in tote bags and delivered to their homes by bicycle within two to three weeks. Follow-up phone calls and individually-tailored print communications continue building the relationship with the program over time.

VI Program Results

All six programs were successful. The municipal decision makers in BFC communities supported policy changes and infrastructure improvements that were associated with an average cycling mode share growth of 48% relative to other communities.

Before BIXI, 25% of bike trips in Montreal were to work and back. Two years after BIXI was implemented, that increased to 53%. In surveys, users said that without BIXI, only 3% of them would have used a bike, whereas 14% would have taken a car.

Love to Ride engaged 30,000+ non-cyclists. For its 2013 challenge, 54% of ‘non-cyclists’ at baseline were three months later cycling at least once a month and 35% of these ‘non-cyclists’ were cycling to work at least once a week. One longer-term project found that two years later, 39 of an original 292 ‘non-cyclists’ registered again for the competition and of those 28% were still cycling occasionally and 31% were cycling regularly.

Stepping it Up measured an overall average decrease in school car trips of 7% in the morning period and 3% in the afternoon period, which translates to nearly 750,000 additional minutes of physical activity among students at these schools each year, more than 100,000 vehicle kilometres of travel avoided, and associated greenhouse gas emission and air pollution reductions of 22 tonnes and 884 kilograms, respectively.

Smart Trips Welcome reduced drive-alone car trips among new residents by 10.4%.

Stockholm’s Congestion Pricing initiative led to lasting car traffic reductions of 20%.

VII Learnings

  • The evolution of web-based communications is making it increasingly practical to personalize communications so they can be more effective.
  • For transportation-related behaviours, factors to consider when targeting and segmenting audiences include: location, age, income, current travel habits, stage of change, and whether or not the household had recently moved.
  • New residents are particularly receptive to changing their travel habits as the new circumstances brought about by relocation necessarily demand changes to daily routines. (Smart Trips Welcome)
  • The most successful local government programs involve many different internal departments and strengthen cross-silo relationships. (BFC Program)
  • To achieve maximum public support, time referendums after rather than before trials or pilots. (Stockholm’s Congestion Pricing)
  • Congestion pricing – an option which was initially resisted in Stockholm and which is almost universally avoided– can in fact be popular, work well, and generate significant additional funds for municipalities. (Stockholm’s Congestion Pricing)

VIII Further Details and Additional Resources

Further details on each of these case studies, including full case study write-ups, transcripts and webinar video recordings, as well as additional resources for planning and delivering active living programs, can be found on the Tools of Change Active Living Page: