You are not stuck in traffic. You are traffic

This is such a great, simple message. It looks like it comes from a marketing team (hey, they know their craft) but it shows how powerful a few words can be in communicating a message that challenges the way people see themselves and their behaviour.

We have a tendency to not see ourselves as part of systems, to analyse our or others’ behaviour as isolated rather than symptomatic of a larger social, economic or political structures, particularly when it comes to collectively undesirable or unsustainable behaviours. A message like this puts our behaviour in context, perhaps in a new light, prompting us to question it.

It reminds me of this great illustration on how unsustainable our addiction to cars over public transport or cycling is.

picoftheday0012-space-60people

Interestingly recent research suggests that, for some, our attachment to cars is largely about a sense of privacy, autonomy and personal space. This is interesting because governments tend to make public transport “competitive” with private transport in terms of cost and convenience yet these are not always the main considerations for people’s preference for driving. As the researcher Jennifer Kent of Sydney University put it in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“It is an attachment to notions such as privacy, autonomy and predictability, as well as comfort provided by things like air-conditioning, private sound systems.”

Which suggests that if we want to cut down on private car use we need more than just neat slogans to cut through and challenge people to think about their behaviour. We also need systems level thinking. As Kent suggests, we need governments to conduct “a full-scale evaluation of transport and land use to see which policies might be¬†inadvertently, or quite obviously, perpetuating car reliance and car appreciation.” Systems level change and design while bringing people along with that change and the reasons for it.

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