Pauline Reeves: Case study

at Department for Transport (DfT)

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Deputy Director, Sustainable Transport and Equalities, Department for Transport

When I began my CSaP/CEDAR Policy Fellowship in 2012, the policy on Active Travel that I had been asked to lead on had become slightly stagnant. I wanted to understand what we could achieve if we properly assessed the barriers and opportunities, and how we could address them to achieve transformational and long-term change in the number of people who walk and cycle.

Policy makers understandably focus on the lifetime of a Parliament. My first week as a Policy Fellow gave me an opportunity to think more long-term, and I began to investigate, with the academics I met, how to achieve a vision for the next twenty years and beyond. This was a big policy shift for us in the Department. I was also struck by how little we had done to evaluate the policy interventions we had already made in this area. After my first week, I took the need for evaluation away as a key action point.

My discussions also highlighted the “silo” mentality we can sometimes have in policy. I was given contacts in other government departments who were working towards the same policy objectives as me: creating economic growth and cutting carbon. I also met a number of academics who specialised in behaviour change. It seems like a no-brainer now, but when I started this work I didn’t consider it to be a behaviour change project, and yet that is what is emerging for me. Active Travel policy is about people and what can nudge them towards a mode shift to walking or cycling for short journeys.

I’d like to think I would have realised all this under my own steam but I don’t think so. How many times do we really have the luxury in policy to sit outside the box for a week? I am now running an evaluation programme for my policy, I have established a cross-Whitehall group, and I have seconded an academic into my team to pull together all the research and evidence to strengthen my policy direction.

I feel invigorated and inspired to be brave and innovative in my advice to Ministers, knowing that if I can prove that this will deliver benefits that increase physical activity in this country, the policy need not change just because a government does.