Understanding the public acceptability of road pricing and the roles of older age, social norms, pro-social values and trust for urban policy-making: The case of Bristol

Alexandros Nikitas, Erel Avineri, Graham Parkhurst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)


Cities looking to embark on more sustainable development pathways may need to evaluate the controversial but usually impactful measure of road pricing as a means of reducing their reliance on conventionally fuelled automobiles. Understanding the mechanisms determining the public acceptability of road pricing could be critical for its implementation. Studying the attitudes of older people is of particular significance because of their increasing demographic and political importance and vulnerability to transport-related social exclusion. Prior research identified that older people's social norms and pro-social values affect their attitudes to road pricing. The present paper extends this understanding based on the results of three focus groups conducted in Bristol, UK. According to these, there are three distinctive expressions of pro-sociality: pro-environmental values and generativity, which are mainly drivers of support for road pricing, and pro-equity values, which are mainly drivers of opposition. Social norms have two particular expressions: subjective norms (i.e. norms reflecting participants’' immediate social environment) and norms about others and society in general. Furthermore, a theory-driven thematic analysis indicates that trust on the integrity of the concept and older age as a life stage associated with ageing, retirement, lower income, mobility barriers and deteriorating health are important in how attitudes reflecting and affecting public acceptability to road pricing form. Finally, the paper highlights the need for packaging road pricing with measures promoting its pro-social potential and the importance of peer-to-peer communication and accepting citizens as “social influencers”, tailored consultation, pro-social branding, pre-implementation trials, clear administrative roles, transparency, and “political patience”.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-91
Number of pages14
Early online date13 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018


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