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. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214140516302377

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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 http://www.pastaproject.eu/home/ 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).

https://bristoluniversity.mediasite.com/Mediasite/Play/f933c7518c504e378a65763f9501c83c1d (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 http://bit.ly/1K2Tez6

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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. http://www.sbs.oxford.edu

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Economic value for money of walking and cycling interventions

Published on November 6th 2014, read my report on the value for money of walking and cycling interventions. The report was commissioned, endorsed, and published by the Department for Transport in England.


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Essential Evidence on a Page: A translational research service

The Essential Evidence series started in 2008 in order to provide a de-jargonised service to transport planning colleagues in Bristol City Council at the time when the city had just commenced ‘Cycling City’ status.

The key point of these 1 page briefings is to bring to officers (and others interested) data and evidence which will otherwise probably remain ‘locked away’ in the ivory towers of academia in seemingly arcane journals that transport planners has very likely never heard of let alone access. Having chosen a’ career path’ in both public health and transport planning it seemed self-evident to me that there was a need to provide some of this evidence in order to help better inform transport planning decision making.

In academia – where we generate a codified title for most things – this type of work has been increasingly described as translational research. It’s just starting to make a mark outside of the bio-medical and pharmacological ghetto in which it first developed not least to help drug companies improve client understanding of their products (ie the medics).

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20 mph speed limits

One of the UK’s most eminent human geographers, Professor Dorling, has this January (2014) presented a powerful case that the implementation of 20mph speed limits is the most effective method for improving public health.[1] He highlights that slowing-down vehicles would reduce inequalities within cities because it tends to be in the poorer parts of cities that people are at most risk of being hurt or killed by vehicles. Also, in urban areas the majority of people killed or seriously injured are pedestrians and cyclists. By grouped cause of death, the biggest killer in Britain of children between 11-16 years old (and anyone between the ages of 5 and 25) is road traffic crashes. This includes a vehicle hitting a pedestrian, a pedal cyclist being hit by a vehicle, or the death of a passenger or driver in a vehicle during a crash. For children, the risk of injury is higher in faster traffic environments because their eyes are not developed enough yet to be able to judge speeds over 20mph.[2] He also cites 10 other benefits, including for drivers, older people fearful of leaving their homes, those who’d like to cycle more, and improved social connectivity as additional reasons to adopt 20mph speed limits. This corresponds with a Local Government Information Unit policy briefing which is strongly in favour of 20mph because of a myriad of ‘win-win’ outcomes.[3]

[1] Dorling, D. 2014 20mph Speed Limits for Cars in Residential Areas, by Shops and Schools, in British Academy, If you could do one thing…” Nine local actions to reduce health inequalities. London: BA. http://www.britac.ac.uk/policy/Health_Inequalities.cfm 

[2] Wang, J., Poulter, D., Purcell, C. 2011 Reduced Sensitivity to Visual Looming Inflates the Risk Posed by Speeding Vehicles When Children Try to Cross the Road, Psychological Science, 22, 4, 429-434.

[3] LGIU Policy Briefing 2012 Area-wide 20mph neighbourhoods: a win, win, win for local authorities http://www.lgiu.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Area-wide-20mph-neighbourhoods-a-win-win-win-for-local-authorities.pdf accessed 13th January 2014.

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