Understanding traveller behaviour with Rory Sutherland on this week’s Highways Voices

“Nobody talks about the traffic jam they didn’t experience because the motorway had been inexpensively widened,” comments behavioural scientist Rory Sutherland on this week’s Highways Voices podcast as he discusses the challenges facing the perception of Smart Motorways, “so, passenger feedback or driver feedback on its own is not going to be a reliable measure of how good an idea this is. Because they’ll go ‘Oh, that was a car broken down on the lane’ and that’s noticeable. The fact that the last 17 times you drove between junction five and junction six of the M25 there wasn’t a traffic jam at Clacket Lane –  nobody’s going to talk about that because nobody notices non-events.”

Rory, who with Pete Dyson wrote the book Transport for Humans, will be speaking at the JCT Traffic Signals Symposium in September about how we can often use psychological solutions to fix transport challenges.

Subscribe to Highways Voices free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts or Pocket Casts and never miss an episode!

“It occurred to us that the transport industry was mostly missing a trick, but in some cases significantly misdirecting effort, by focusing on the quantitative aspects of transport,” he explains. “Those things that are easy to measure, typically SI derived units like time and distance and so on, and missing out on much easier low hanging opportunities to improve the passenger experience. And to change passenger behaviour in general, simply using psychological means, whether that be information, persuasion, reframing, whatever it may be.”

In the chat he talks about how the things humans care about may be very different to measure than the things transport professionals tend to measure and use as proxies for the idea of a good service.

Talking of his appearance with JCT in Nottingham, he comments, “I hope I hope they like what I have to say, because what I’m undoubtedly doing is massively elevating the relative importance of signalling, signage and wayfinding and other forms of information over the people who are normally considered higher status in the world of road building – widening and everything else.”

Enjoy 30 minutes of very entertaining and informative chat, plus the latest partner news and headlines from the Highways News website.

The JCT Traffic Signals Symposium takes place at Nottingham Trent University on 14 and 15 September, with the MOVA User Group and opening barbecue networking the day before. Find out more and book delegate and exhibitor places here.

ADEPT link mentioned in the partner news is here.


Related Stories


All the latest highways news direct to your inbox every week day

Subscribe now