Encouraging new Utrecht residents to continue cycling (Netherlands)

By News Editor / Updated: 28 Apr 2015
As part of the EU-funded SEGMENT project, the City of Utrecht launched a campaign that targeted new residents who were frequent cyclists to reinforce their sustainable travel behaviour and make them reflect on alternatives to the car.

Utrecht has the ambitious goal to decrease car-use by 50 per cent by 2030 and cut CO2 emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2020. Over 30 projects have begun under the 'Utrecht Attractive and Accessible' policy (a presentation of which is available to download below). The city has chosen a mix of programs aimed at behavioural change and investment in cycling infrastructure and public transport. One of these projects is SEGMENT, a 3-year IEE STEER-funded project which will test the use of consumer market segmentation techniques in persuading people to change their travel behaviour and adopt more energy-efficient forms of transport. SEGMENT targets people undergoing ‘life-changing moments’, because at these times people reflect on their habits and are more likely to change their behaviour. One of the target groups were new residents or people who had recently moved.

From May until September 2012, a campaign was run which focused on two segments within the target group of new residents: the 'practical peddlers' (33 per cent) and the 'aspiring environmentalists' (21 per cent) - together comprising of more than half the population of new residents. Both segments cycle a lot already, but car-use for the peddler is increasing. Both segments are – for different reasons - open to alternatives like car sharing or e-bikes. Peddlers because they might be practical, or environmentally conscious and think they can make a difference. The campaign focused on confirmation of good cycling behaviour on the one hand and experimenting with new means of transport on the other, because there was not much chance for increasing bicycle use. Campaigning based on lifestyle analyses and life-changing moments like in the SEGMENT project is rather new, but it was not the first time that Utrecht used this method.  The segments were identified via a survey conducted by the University of Aberdeen (UK).

The main goal of this campaign was to reinforce existing sustainable behaviour of new residents, and create awareness among new residents for smart alternatives to the use of a private car, such as car-sharing, public transport and e-bikes.

In action 

From May until September 2012 approximately 6 700 new or recently moved residents in Utrecht received packages containing a letter and a cycle map with special offers. They had to download online vouchers and cash them on location by travelling by bike. Because the chosen segments already cycle a lot, it requires a lot of effort to increase long-term bike use. In marketing terms: only by innovation or huge price reduction. Therefore the city chose confirmation of good behaviour on the one hand and experimenting with e-bikes on the other. The city was unable to implement the latter, so only supporting good behaviour was carried out.

The campaign was produced by communications agency o-Utrecht and the city of Utrecht. The agency designed the campaign, the cycle map and the vouchers, while Utrecht took care of the mailing and the publicity. The campaign cost €27 000. It took about 300 hours from the start (the first survey in 2010) to the end in 2013. This included supporting the baseline and follow-up surveys; international project meetings; tendering and pitching; publicity and dissemination; and evaluation.


Almost 9 per cent of the 6 700 targeted inhabitants responded by downloading vouchers. Car driving went down by 4 per cent; cycling was up by 2 per cent; walking decreased by one per cent; and public transport use rose by 3 per cent. The annual CO2-emissions reduction is about 200 tons.

Challenges, opportunities and transferability 
  • The city's policy-makers now better understand the way communication works, while the communications department learned more about mobility behaviour and tools for directing behaviour. 
  • Campaigning is only a part of the solution. A mix of instruments is needed, including infrastructure, regulations and subsidies.
  • Segmentation by using lifestyle knowledge and life-changing moments gives high results in terms of communication and positive feedback.
Walking and cycling
Mobility management
Chris Verhoeven
Chris Verhoeven
01 Feb 2013
28 Apr 2015