A psycho-social approach to change travel behaviour

The Italian start-up Mobyforall is designed according to the UX principles and conceived to inform, think, create awareness, and have fun to pull people to sustainability.

Transport sector is the second source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), still relying most on petrol consumption, and the new trend of electrification of vehicle fleet will not solve the problem because producing energy is not cost and pollution-free. A general thinking is that technology can improve accessibility to the workplace, places of leisure, and shopping areas, thus improving our quality of life and environmental conditions. However, travel behaviour is not only affected by technology and, as several studies underline, human behaviour is led by cognitive aspects mainly related to psycho-social variables.

Understanding the determinants of pro-environment behaviour can help in identifying the levers to move to make people more sustainable. In Europe, knowledge about negative consequences of traditional car use is now widely shared but, by itself, it is not sufficient to induce a modal shift.

The so called “new mobility solutions’’ refer to shared mobility and, although a consensus on shared mobility definition is lacking today, it can be summarised, according to the Harvard Business School, as: a) an access economy; b) in which the sharing aspect becomes secondary; c) and the market is mediated by an intermediary company.

However, shifting from owned car to a shared car does not imply different behaviours or habits because people continue to use the car with the effects we well know. In addition, it can be seen that car sharing is often used for trips that could be made by public transport, but also by bicycle, taking users away from more sustainable modes of transport.


Changing behaviour is difficult and complex and needs a paradigmatic change in mobility. The main difficulty so far is the lack of data concerning users’ knowledge crossed with life situations. Policy makers wishing to encourage sustainability need measuring instruments to quantify the level of commitment to pro-environment behaviour, and this is especially true in the transport sector. This is the reason why sustainability needs to be designed both in terms of technological and behavioural solutions.

A study from Danish Technical University clustered the population of the European Union into eight mobility styles that differ in travel-related choices, socioeconomic factors, IT-affinity and life satisfaction showing that diverse cultural backgrounds within Europe are likely to require different policy approaches when implementing Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs).

At the University of Magdeburg (Germany), researchers developed the Campbell paradigm, a behavioural theory from social psychology based on the work done by the American social scientist Donald Thomas Campbell, allowing to measure the attitudes. However, behavioural research points out the inconsistency between what people say and what people do, referred to as the attitude-behaviour gap or the intention-behaviour gap.

The attitudes are a key variable in influencing the behaviour and, since transport-related behaviours are an important part of pro-environmental behaviours, a measure of pro-environment behaviour is useful to policy maker to make identification of good practices and devising effective public policies and marketing campaigns easier.

To this end, an Italian start-up measures pro-environment behaviour and has designed a web app that gathers information on employees' travel habits, displaying it on an interactive map to identify the most sustainable routes. The web app is designed according to the UX principles and conceived to inform, think, create awareness, and have fun to pull people to sustainability.


The app makes the analysis of employees' propensity to change possible, helping to incentivise the transition to more sustainable and convenient modes of travel, profiling the travellers and clustering them according to their attitudes.

This behaviour-led approach supports companies to make the travel of their employees more sustainable and to construct indicators that measure the favour of employees towards environmentally friendly mobility behaviour. This makes formulating functional measures to reduce the use of private cars and increasing the use of public transport possible.

In addition, awareness-raising activities on all topics of sustainable mobility are conceived to build sustainability by design, allowing to propose policies tailored to different traveller profiles, based on users’ involvement. User engagement allows employees to be, firstly, informed of the data collection and then, to work together on proposals to achieve greater sustainability of their mobility. Working in groups allows for real involvement in which the employee feels an active part of the decision-making process.


Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram