Denver Nixon is currently an Honorary Research Associate of the Transport Studies Unit at the University of Oxford, having recently completed a three-year postdoctorate there. He also teaches in the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia. Denver’s work at Oxford investigates community-led walking and cycling infrastructural initiatives for marginalized communities in London and São Paulo to critically evaluate their nature, challenges, and potential contributions to just transitions in urban mobility. His doctoral research studied how people’s modes of mobility shape their understandings of their social and physical environments and in this way reproduce or transform dominant transport systems. More broadly, Denver is interested in how environmentally (un)sustainable and socially (un)just practices are formed and maintained through embodied experiences and particular social and material contexts.
Who Feels It Knows It: Intermodal empathy through multimode use?
Does someone who walks or cycles experience increased empathy for users of active transport more broadly? Lessons learned from standpoint feminist scholarship and game theory experiments suggest that it may. If so, sustainable and just transitions in transport systems may demand immersive mobility experiences that go beyond automobility. For instance, will a policy maker who never steps foot outside a car be compelled to shape transportation infrastructure policy that takes into account pedestrian needs? The first step in assessing this link is to determine whether use of a particular mode is needed to empathise with other users of that mode.
The purpose of this study will be to conduct a large sample survey of the relationship between mode use and intermodal empathy, with particular attention to empathy for active travellers. It will advance understanding around whether large mode shifts towards walking and cycling will be possible without some form of immersive experiences with those modes, for example Bike to Work Week and Safe Routes to School programs, or policy requiring transport decision makers to actually try a range of modes themselves.
As part of the research collaboration with ATA Denver will be organising several seminars on topics including analysing qualitative transport data, and conducting fieldwork in unfamiliar settings.