The Behavioural Architects and MBA challenge motorists’ misperceptions of cyclists and promote ‘street harmony’

The poster onsite in London.

Behavioural science insight consultancy The Behavioural Architects has released the results of a campaign independently organised to challenge motorists’ negative views of cyclists on the road.

Many motorists believe that the majority of cyclists jump red lights, while research indicates it is the minority. Working in collaboration with independent agency MBA, The Behavioural Architects created a visually-led campaign that aimed to alter this misconception and enforce positive road cyclist and motorist interaction and behaviour.

A simple behavioural experiment was conducted at two high traffic junctions in London during rush hour, where the research team evaluated the quantitative impact of a small poster on the number of cyclists jumping red lights vs. a previous (poster free) control period.

Crawford Hollingworth, founder of The Behavioural Archtects, said of the initiative: “Evidence shows that there is a significant gap between motorists’ perceptions of the extent of bad cycling behaviour, and in particular the jumping of red lights, than is the reality. We set out to leverage our understanding of behavioural science, and behavioural economics in particular, to understand what drives this perception reality gap.

“We also wanted to use then this understanding to explore ways in which we could apply powerful behavioural principles such as social norm to get red light jumpers to stop, to reinforce good cycling behaviour and to challenge motorists’ views that the majority of cyclists jump red lights.”

The results were extremely successful, challenging motorists’ existing inaccurate beliefs head on, but also resulted in ‘jumping behaviour’ decreasing by 21.4% at one of the junctions, and 14.5% at another. Hollingworth believes that the campaign succeeded in promoting some level of ‘street harmony’ and provides and indication that a large scale campaign may have the power to end motorist-cyclist tensions on the road altogether.

He said: “This simple, small scale intervention shows the potential power of more targeted (larger scale) interventions to build street harmony and make our urban streets a little safer.”

Stephen Maher, chief executive officer of MBA, added. “It is highly rewarding being involved in such a vital behaviour-changing campaign – one that is helping make our roads safer places for us all.”

MBA is an independent creative agency based in London, Miami and Brighton.

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