Opinion: Why awareness campaigns matter

Two people ride side by side on a green cycle lane on a grey day in the city. Traffic lights on green in the background.
Taking place between 16-22 September each year, TravelWise Week helps to raise public awareness of active travel
Nick Butler, business director at Modeshift, talks about TravelWise Week 2023 and why awareness week campaigns matter

Nick Butler has more than 20 years’ experience in developing and implementing sustainable transport programmes in the public, private and community sectors. He joined the Modeshift Executive Board in 2008 and was appointed vice-chair in 2011.

Over this time he worked alongside the chair of Modeshift to establish and manage the Modeshift STARS programme which has since seen over 6,000 sites nationwide achieve Travel Plan accreditation. Nick became the National STARS manager in March 2015 and now leads the Modeshift Delivery Team as business director.

Introducing TravelWise Week

Taking place between 16-22 September each year, TravelWise Week promotes active travel, public transport and other cleaner and healthier transport choices. It’s a world-wide, week-long travel challenge during which Modeshift urges everyone to travel wisely. It coincides with European Mobility Week and ends with World Car Free Day.

TravelWise Week provides the perfect opportunity to present realistic travel alternatives to commuters, students and anyone who drives a car, while also raising awareness around the impacts of travel choices on an individual’s health and wellbeing, as well as on the environment.

Businesses, schools and other organisations are encouraged to get involved by delivering a series of active and sustainable travel challenges from Monday to Friday. Local authorities are asked to deliver activities throughout the seven days from 16-22 September.

TravelWise Week isn’t a new concept, it’s been around for a few years now, but Modeshift took on the role of coordinating the campaign in 2022. This year is our first proper run at TravelWise Week and the excitement is building.

Keeping it simple

We’ve revised how TravelWise Week works with a real focus on simplicity. All an organisation has to do to take part is commit to delivering one or more activities across the week. That could be as simple as promoting public transport options to staff; or going all out and running a whole week of activities. Every activity, no matter how small, can make an impact and contribute to the overall success of the campaign.

We’ve produced a range of resources, guides and templates, so organisations have all the information they need to run TravelWise Week activities at their sites.

With so many competing demands on businesses and schools, we want to ensure that enabling and promoting sustainable and active travel is not seen as an additional burden. The campaign should enhance the work organisations are already delivering to meet their specific goals and objectives.

Make it personal

When it comes to encouraging individuals to take part in campaigns, the message must be relevant and personal. We know how much potential there is for sustainable and active travel to have huge benefits on so many areas of our lives.

Pick a crisis: congestion, obesity, inequality, air pollution, global warming, safety… investing in cycling and walking is as close to a silver bullet as you’ll get

Chris Boardman, Active Travel England commissioner

In 2020, Chris Boardman said: “Pick a crisis: congestion, obesity, inequality, air pollution, global warming, safety… investing in cycling and walking is as close to a silver bullet as you’ll get.”

However, for individuals the message needs to be much more straight forward. Using active or sustainable modes will see them save money, improve their physical and mental health and reduce their impact on their local environment. Perhaps most importantly, though, it can be a lot of fun!

But for these benefits to be realised, sometimes individuals need to be encouraged to ‘just give it a go’. It’s not until you experience these benefits for real that you can feel their impact.

Awareness campaigns like TravelWise Week can provide the springboard individuals and groups need to make changes to their travel habits. People often want to make a change but haven’t found the time or don’t know how to start. TravelWise Week provides that stepping stone to making a change.

To help them along the way, we encourage people to complete a TravelWise Week pledge, committing to make just one small change during the week and adding a level of accountability. We’re asking for pledges on social media. Making a pledge increases the likelihood of the action being taken, particularly if that pledge is written down.

Rewarding participation

All organisations taking part in TravelWise Week can be recognised through Modeshift’s new and exciting TravelWise Week Awards. There are awards for workplaces, schools and local authorities that deliver activities during the campaign.

Including the competition element provides occasion for celebration, and rewarding efforts is proven to help establish behaviour changes in the longer term too. We strongly encourage any organisations that are taking part in our campaigns to offer incentives to participants as well. Rewards don’t have to be financial, and they don’t have to cost a lot of money.

Making it relevant

Team Modeshift is growing year on year. We now have more than 200 organisations registered as members, partners or supporters of Modeshift, and well over 1,000 members of staff within those organisations. There are then thousands of schools, businesses and community settings that take part in the Modeshift STARS scheme. This provides us with a huge opportunity.

Team Modeshift is all about sharing best practice and celebrating one another’s successes.

Throughout TravelWise Week, we will be sharing stories from across our networks to inspire and champion every effort that is made to grow levels of sustainable and active travel.

When we all work together, we speak with one voice, and we can achieve more than we could ever have dreamed of.

How to take part in TravelWise Week 2023

  • Visit TravelWise Week to view and download the resources
  • Commit to delivering one or more activities across TravelWise Week
  • Hold a ‘Car Free Day’, joining organisations around the world in celebrating World Car Free Day on 22 September 2023.

To be in with a chance of winning one of our TravelWise Week Awards, follow the steps below

Visit TravelWiseWeek.org.uk for more information and keep in touch on our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages.