Global 1st as Professor of Transport & Health

As of September 2018 I took up the Chair of Transport & Health at Edinburgh Napier University. This is the first such Chair anywhere in the world. It gives added attention and recognition to this growing inter-disciplinary field. You can read the Press Notice here

Thanks to the Transport Research Institute, Edinburgh Napier University, for being innovative and prepared to try such a post. Exciting times and opportunities. I have to say that this does not mean I have totally left UWE, and all things Bristol. But the ‘centre of gravity’ has absolutely moved!

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Physical Activity through Sustainable Transport Approaches

PASTA was a EU funded project that ran from 2014-17. Adrian was one of the four Expert Advisors. There have been many outputs from PASTA including a range of peer reviewed papers. The PASTA website is

One of the outputs has been a Handbook. The innovation of the PASTA Handbook of good practice case studies for promotion of walking and cycling lies in its original approach for identifying successful measures across the transport planning and public health domains that had a health dimension embedded. Each good practice describes a specific active mobility measure for an expert audience of practitioners and decision makers working in transport and health. All measures were implemented in cities across Europe, some are completed or are still ongoing. Facts and figures illustrate in greater detail how each measure has been implemented and how much has contributed to increase levels of active mobility.

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Webinar on Transport Planning and Health

A Webinar hosted by Sustrans where I go through some of the main transport and health issues – but with a strong active travel focus!

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9 years and 9 months…

So, last September, that is, September 2016, I wrote that my time with Bristol CC was drawing to a close. And some people actually read that and wondered what was going on as I clearly still seemed to be there (2 days a week – down from 3 originally). Well, despite the financial climate, some funds were found. And, then, it happened again. The funding, that is. It was there from April 2017. So, the work continues for now. Next hurdle, new contract April 18…

So a bit about policy change and policy development…

Times change but a lot of focus has remained on ‘bridging the gap between research and practice’ and how we do this in our day-to-day work. The organisational structure still tend to work against this. I have posed a question: Why do we stop reading peer reviewed evidence when we move on from University study? The dislocation is immediate and profound. Moving on to a consultancy job in planning, transport, urban design etc… results in one of the opening ups of ‘the gap’ and as time goings on the academic evidence recedes and a different dominant paradigm takes hold. For government I term this the bounded rationality triad – where business as usual and incrementalism muddle along with ideology and politics as the dominant forces. Scientific evidence gets used when it supports what has already been selected.

Of course, policy making takes place in the context of uncertain conditions and increasingly complex policy problems. At the same time there is an often stated desire among policy makers to formulate policies based on the best available evidence. But the evidence has to align with what Kingdon[1] called ‘The political stream’. This is the standpoint of politicians. It is composed of such things as ‘public mood’, pressure group campaigns, election results, and which Party holds power in government. This stream is based on consensus and compromise so that evidence-based proposals may be weakened through any processes of negotiation. For evidence to be used in policy it has to survive attempts to filter it out, a process which is achieved by finding powerful sponsors who advocate particular kinds of evidence in policy. Evidence which survives the various filtration mechanisms stands the best chance of being used in policy.[2] Proposals that meet several criteria enhance their chance of survival.

A coda is the suggestion that the majority of what is described as ‘policy learning’ is ‘touristic’ or ‘soft’. This is that policy makers see something they like and attempt to introduce it into their home context without sufficient attention to how policies are transferred.4

[1] Kingdon, J. 1995 2nd (ed) Agendas, alternatives, and public policies, New York: HarperCollins.

[2] Stevens, A, 2007, Survival of the ideas that fit: An evolutionary analogy for the use of evidence in policy, Social Policy and Society 6, 1, 25–3More anon.

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Bye bye to Bristol City Council – after 8.5 years

As the only public health and transport specialist co-located into a transport team in a single local authority in the UK back in 2008, through the vision of the then Director of Public Health, Hugh Annett, Adrian had to develop his own road-map’ for how to get the best out of this fantastic intersectoral collaboration opportunity. Almost from Day 1 came the drafting of the successful bid to become Cycling City. Cycling England commended on the strength of the public health elements. More successful bids by the Transport Team followed.

From those highly stimulating starts much has followed including many important contributions to reducing road danger. Public health conceptual frameworks, theories, methods, and appraisal techniques were all used. However, by far the greatest contribution is likely to have been that of supplying robust peer reviewed evidence and demonstrating that there are evidence hierarchies – not all ‘evidence’ is of equal weight. This has been increasingly recognised as important in demonstrating to potential funders and in making the case to politicians that approaches being promoted are well-founded. This is  something that can not often be said for much of the post-war transport planning in the UK.

Work in progress…

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The science and art of intersectoral collaboration on transport and health

The latest edition of the Journal of Transport and Health addresses this issue through a number of papers and an overview is provided in an editorial by Prof Susan Handy and Adrian.

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Physical Activity through Sustainable Transport Approaches (PASTA)

The PASTA project, 4 year funded from the EC, held a conference Building the Liveable and Healthy City in Brussels on November 18th to show case work to date. See for more information on this project including list of publications to date

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June 2015 ESRC Masterclass on Evidence

ESRC Masterclass on the application of evidence in Planning held at the University of Bristol with presentations from Adrian Davis and Adam Sheppard (UWE). (see from 15 mins and 12 seconds in)

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A Healthy Relationship. New report by Adrian Davis for Passenger Transport Executive Group

Launched in February, the Passenger Transport Executive Group (PTEG) report A Healthy Relationship reports on a survey of Directors of Public Health in England as to the extent of collaboration between public health and transport planning professional in the 18 months since public health returned to top tier local government. Read that report here

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Health, Well-being and Urban Mobility, University of Oxford

Star packed session, and that’s just the delegates, to this annual 3 day event. I get to do the final session on working at the ‘coal-face’ of transport planning and health in a local authority.

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