TSU’s Sustainable Transport Mode Race

Transport researchers strongly advocate for the use of sustainable transport modes in our daily workplace commutes. Their belief is that by prioritising these modes, we can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, alleviate congestion, and foster the development of more liveable and equitable cities. From walking to using alternative fuel-based vehicles, a plethora of sustainable transport options are at the urban population’s disposal. The question of which mode is the most effective, however, remains open. In a recent exercise, four members of the Transport Studies Unit (TSU) embarked on a race from Marston (Oxford) to the School of Geography and the Environment (SoGE) to find the answer. Kirsty Ray opted for a shared e-scooter, Gaurav Mittal chose the public bus, Xiao Li preferred to walk, and Juan Pablo (JP) Orjuela rode his bicycle.

This short video shows how the race unfolded and how the participants experienced their commute. On the time front, the race threw up the expected results: the bicycle being the fastest mode (10 minutes), the public bus being the slowest (47 minutes), with the e-scooter (27 minutes) and walking (33 minutes) sandwiched in between. 

The exercise made us reflect on the distinctive aspects of mobility experiences that lead to people preferring different modes of transport. Kirsty found using e-scooters a fun way to travel and pretty flexible due to their ample availability in commuting areas. Xiao relished the walk through the parks, which improved his physical and mental health and made him start his day with enhanced motivation and energy levels. Gaurav enjoyed his bus ride as it helped him keep dry and warm on a rainy morning while travelling in the company of many people. Cycling helped JP exercise while making him reach the SoGE quickly.

Transport research has focused on the speed and efficiency of transport modes for many years, with the core objective of making commutes faster. While this focus led to many innovations, it also aided the proliferation of privately owned automobiles to the extent that these modes are paradoxically often slower and less efficient than other options in contemporary cities. The introduction of new transport options and a renewed focus on traditional sustainable transport modes have pluralised urban mobility landscapes in recent years. Our exercise showed while there is still room for improving the speed and efficiency of sustainable transport services – for example, Gaurav spent 16 minutes waiting for the bus out of his 47 minutes of commute, and Kirsty had to take a longer route because the shortest route was geofenced, we need to pay attention to other elements of transport, such as health, safety, equity, and comfort to make significant strides towards sustainable futures. 

The TSU is actively engaged in a variety of research projects and education programmes that explore different aspects of sustainable urban commutes. The Care on the Move project focuses on the mobility needs and experiences of children with invisible disabilities. ELEVATE aims to understand the potential of e-micromobility in reducing energy demand and carbon emissions while improving health. ITEM is advancing research on inclusive electric mobility transitions, and our Global Challenges in Transport Programme equips decision-makers with the skills and expertise needed to tackle the complex challenges of sustainable transport futures.

TSU’s Sustainable Transport Mode Race

 In a recent exercise, four members of the Transport Studies Unit (TSU) embarked on a race from Marston (Oxford) to the School of Geography and the Environment (SoGE).