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Four key actions within a sustainable mobility approach as defined by Banister

Updated: Dec 22, 2021


Banister’s sustainable mobility paradigm published in 2007 is a very influential paper with stated principles being realised and implemented in the following years after publication. The paper exploits two fundamental principles, the first principle being the approach of considering travel as a derived demand and not as an activity people wish to take and secondly the correlated understanding that, travel cost and time are taken to travel is the main reason for people to minimise their generalised costs of travel.

Banister defined four key actions within a sustainable mobility approach being as substitution, modal shift, distance reduction and efficiency increase with the aim of reducing the need for travel, reducing the trip lengths and encourage the efficient use of transport system.

1. Reducing the need to travel—substitution

Life cycleways of thinking encourage the first question asked being of the need of creating or executing the project or service at hand. In transport, a trip is no longer required to be made from the time when the activity has been executed without the need for travel.

By means of technology and the power of telecommunication and the internet, tasks such as grocery shopping and working can be achieved from the comfort of homes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the US eCommerce market saw a 78% increase from May 2019 to May 2020 on the online shopping sales amending the lockdown measures being placed (Avinash Unnikrishnan, 2020). The current pandemic had a major impact on rethinking travel patterns and general adaptation to virus-free transportation.

2. Transport policy measures—modal shift

The aim of reducing the use of cars could have many social, economic, and environmental benefits. As per Banisters, incorporating transport policies with the aim to reduce the number of cars used and slow down traffic in conjected areas in an urban setting will make more effective use of the available spaces and improve the welfare of its citizens. Streets should stop being only considered as roads but also as spaces for people, green modes and public transport (Banister, 2007). London leaders started the initiative back in 2008 by introducing Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and then followed in 2019 introducing the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in areas of central London, fully imitating concepts predicted by Banister by reducing the car movements on roads (London, 2019).

Data finds that a 65% reduction of older, more polluting, non-compliant vehicles were detected in these zones between 2017 and 2019 which had the reaction of reducing harmful NOx emissions from road transport in the central zone by 31% (200 tonnes) making roads less conjected and improving the welfare of its citizens.

3. Land-use policy measures—distance reduction

To achieve the carbon net-zero goals set by governments around the world a switch to green modes of transport will be of paramount importance. Only in the UK transport-related CO2e emissions are the highest with a 27% share as seen in Figure below (BEIS, 2021).

In his paper, Banister drew attention to the need to find physical means by which distance can be reduced in an urban setting (Banister, 2007). This can be achieved by switching to green modes of transport and by applying public policies through the development of increasing densities and concentration of housing, through the design of buildings, public spaces and transport routes giving emphasise on car-free developments. Establishing size thresholds of the availability of services and facilities (Banister, 2007) has been a fundamental aspect of the 15-minute city which may be defined as ideal geography where most human needs and many desires are located within a travel distance of 15 minutes (ANDRES DUANY, 2021).

4. Technological innovation—efficiency increase

Technology plays a vital role in improving people’s quality of life and its impact on transport efficiency is substantial. Banister views that to achieve sustainable mobility the best available technology in terms of car engine design, alternative fuels, and use of renewable energy should be implemented. Introduced standards and regulations can reduce levels of noise and pollution at certain parts of a city, hence improving welfare. Banister extremely accurately anticipated the current London ULEZ zones (London, 2019) as he referred to the benefits of ensuring the access to certain parts of the city should be restricted to those vehicles that are seen to be environmentally cleaner than other vehicles (Banister, 2007). Recent technologies such as autonomous/electric vehicles and the hyperloop support the standards introduced by Banister such as reducing noise levels and decarbonizing the transportation system by reducing pollution.

In conclusion, Banister's ideas are appropriate, however, further thinking into decarbonizing the energy power grid of nations should be incorporated in talks of achieving sustainable mobility. The key in my opinion to achieve this is collaboration and cooperation from all the industries participating in the transport market for the sole purpose of improving systems and implementing radical change promoting sustainability.


About Professor David Banister

David Banister is a Professor of Transport Studies at the Oxford University Centre for the Environment.

Until recently he was Professor of Transport Planning at University College London. He has also been Research Fellow at the Warren Centre in the University of Sydney (2001-2002) on the Sustainable Transport for a Sustainable City project and was Visiting VSB Professor at the Tinbergen Institute in Amsterdam (1994-1997).

He will be a visiting Professor at the University of Bodenkultur in Vienna in 2007. He is a Trustee of the Civic Trust and Chair of their Policy Committee (2005-2009)


Useful Documents

  • Banister, D., 2007. The sustainable mobility paradigm. Transport Policy 15 (2008) 73–80 , 19 November, pp. 73-80.


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