E-Bike Hubs: Engaging Plymouth’s University Community

Plymouth City Council is working on a scheme to develop journey hubs to encourage more sustainable travel in the city. One of the elements of the journey hub is an e-bike scheme where citizens can rent an e-bike for travel around the city.

To ensure this scheme is successful, the Council recognised the need to explore potential user communities of the e-bikes to understand what might influence their chosen journey behaviour. Resource Futures was asked to help obtain insight into the behavioural factors enabling them to make the right decisions to maximise participation in the scheme.


  • Identify behavioural influences around Plymouth’s e-bike journey hubs quickly and cost-effectively;
  • Apply a behavioural science lens to the process to complement consultations activity; and
  • Identify priority areas that future development of the e-bike journey hub should consider.


As part of initial analysis, it was identified that Plymouth’s student community may be a key user group of the e-bike scheme. Plymouth University had willing participants from both staff and student populations and members from local cycling initiatives were also happy to contribute within the available timeframe.

Resource Futures facilitated an online workshop to explore the behavioural influences within this specific user community – a model that could be replicated for other user groups. The ISM behaviour change tool was used to drive and inform discussions. This practical tool was developed in conjunction with the Scottish Government and refined through implementation. It considers the individual (I), social (S) and material (M) contexts, which influence people’s behaviour and applied this to the scenario of the university community (students and staff) participating in the e-bike scheme.

A workshop was held with 20 participants representing staff and students from multiple disciplines, the cycling community and Plymouth City Council.

The 1.5 hour session comprised:

  • Overview of Plymouth City Council’s proposed journey hub scheme with a focus on the e-bike element;
  • Introduction to the ISM behaviour change model;
  • Facilitated discussion drawing on the ISM principles to tease out behavioural influences surrounding the e-bike scheme; and
  • Identification of dominant themes, issues and potential opportunities.

small e-bike hubs


“I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the workshop, but it was a really insightful process. Participants were genuinely engaged and using the ISM model flushed out lots of different perspectives on the problem that we wouldn’t usually identify through traditional channels. Resource Futures were a great facilitator and their behaviour change expertise was highly valuable.”

John Green, Low Carbon City Officer, Plymouth City Council.

The workshop resulted in lively and varied discussion with multiple aspects explored in a short window of time. The ISM tool enabled us to surface the cluster points, where themes of discussion arose across multiple behaviour change levers and therefore indicate a priority area for attention.

Identified cluster points included:

  • Safety fears – a common perception that cycling in the city is dangerous and unappealing.
  • Commuter confidence – concerns around the reliability of the scheme in terms of e-bike availability and working order, and how it would fit into daily schedules and match commuter habits.
  • Leisure opportunity – desire for the e-bikes to also support lifestyle and recreation rather than simply commuting.

Potential behavioural levers to address each of these cluster points were discussed and summarised in a written report. Examples of potential interventions included:

  • Increase visibility and signposting of cycle lanes. Use of colour coding would act as a visible cue to all road users. Consideration of the lane size will also influence perceived safety.
  • Cyclist awareness training for bus drivers/taxis and visible accreditation signage in buses and related infrastructure to help build confidence in cyclist safety.
  • Bikeability training to build road cycling confidence for adults – this may be achievable in collaboration with other cycling advocates/Sustrans to raise awareness, increase availability and run dedicated programmes with different institutions.

Project Information

Services involved

Behaviour Change

Private: Communications

Community Impact

Team involved

Sarah Hargreaves
Behaviour Change Lead / Principal Consultant