A. Jakovcevic (chair); L. van Rijswijk; J. McKechnie/Edgerton; M. Rietkerk. Location: A2

Effects of pedestrian interventions on perceptions about traffic safety and neighborhood appearance

A. Jakovcevic, P. Bisiau, & G. Ayerza

Perception of traffic safety is as important as actual traffic conditions in influencing travel behavior. Previous research shows that negative perceptions of traffic safety are associated with negative outcomes, including reduced probability of walking and cycling. To promote traffic safety and walkability, the City of Buenos Aires recently renovated a series of intersections by the introduction of traffic calming measures (e.g., roadway narrowing, shorter crosswalks) and the introduction of greenery. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of those interventions on pedestrians’ perceptions about traffic safety and intersection appearance. A field study compared perceptions before and after the intervention in a group of pedestrians in the intervention area (n=57) with a control group (n=30). Within-group comparisons indicated that only the group belonging to intervened intersections significantly changed its perceptions after the changes were applied. Specifically, their perceptions about traffic safety, crosswalks visibility and intersection appearance increased while their evaluation about car speeding decreased. These results were supported by objective measurements indicating a reduction in car speeding. According to these findings pedestrian interventions might be an effective way to modify pedestrians´ perceptions about safety and neighborhood attractiveness that in turn can promote healthy behaviors such as walking.

Exploring a new paradigm for investigating localized information seeking in the safety perception process

L. van Rijswijk & A. Haans

Recent evidence suggests that the safety-related informational cues present in an observer’s immediate surroundings may be more essential to the safety perception process than the informational cues present in the more distal environment (Haans & De Kort, 2012). The empirical investigation of this phenomenon of localized information seeking (e.g., by blocking or blurring local/distal information from stimuli) is hampered by the lack of an appropriate research paradigm. In three studies we explored a newly developed research paradigm in which we combine localized blocking of environmental information on stimuli depicting nocturnal urban environments with rapid (i.e., between 14ms and 500ms) presentation of stimuli. Results of these studies show that participants are able to accurately distinguish safe from unsafe environments from a stimulus presentation time as short as 50ms (SOA = 250ms). Moreover, the reducing of safety-relevant environmental information is shown to decrease participants’ accuracy as well as their own confidence in making an accurate judgment. However, the effect of localized blocking of information on safety judgments are inconsistent across the three studies. These findings extend the literature on rapid environmental perception to include complex appraisals of safety, while simultaneously opening up a new paradigm for studying environmental safety perceptions.

A longitudinal study on new school environments: implications for research and practice

J. McKechnie, E. Edgerton, & S. McEwen

Within the field of environmental psychology, research has demonstrated the impact of a range of environmental variables on students within learning environments (Maxwell & Evans, 2000; Stone, 2011). However, studies focusing on the impact of the ‘whole school environment’ are relatively rare. In recent years, Scotland (like the rest of the UK) has experienced an unprecedented level of investment in its school estate and this has provided a ‘real-world’ opportunity for objective, empirical, research that investigates how new school buildings impact on students and staff. This paper reviews an 8 year longitudinal study that we recently concluded to investigate the impact of new secondary school buildings in Scotland (students ages 12-17 years) from the perspective of both students and staff.  The student data that was collected during this period consisted of measures of behaviour, motivation, self-esteem and perceptions of the school environment whilst the staff data consisted of measures of behaviour, self-esteem, work self-perceptions, job satisfaction and perceptions of the school environment. The presentation will summarise the main findings of the study as well as outlining the implications of these findings for future research on school environments and school design.

Nudging Sustainable Behaviour and the Energy Agreement: Is there a Match?

M. Rietkerk

The Dutch “Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth” is developed by the government, companies and environmental organizations to target long term goals for energy saving and climate policy. One of the possibilities to obtain these targets is using ‘nudging’ as a tool for behavioural change. The nudge concept is driven by the idea that most choices stem from a fast habit- or emotion based system, rather than from deliberate reasoning. It is especially of interest because public (climate) policies often address the rational thinker in order to change behaviour. In this research, the nudging of sustainable behaviour was analysed by making a cross-country comparison between the Netherlands, the UK,  the USA, Norway and Denmark. It offers an overview of heuristic biases for specific sustainable behaviours, and it shows that there are possibilities to implement nudging techniques in the Netherlands similar to what is implemented in other countries. The idea of respecting freedom on the one hand, and nudging towards sensible choices on the other hand, gives rise to a discussion of the legitimacy of nudging. Several examples will be discussed in the presentation.