The Grand Challengers Podcast Episode #28

A social psychology toolkit for changing transport planning, built environment and future mobility

Guest: Alexa Delbosc

April 30th, 2024

Episode Teaser


“…We are humans, and we understand the world through our own embodied, lived experience…”

Alexa Delbosc is an Associate Professor in the Monash University Institute of Transport Studies, Australia. After a journey through social psychology with a Masters from Harvard in 2005, she packed her bags and travelled down under and used her unique skill set to advance our understanding in transport behaviour and how societal changes are affecting our planning decisions around car, bus, train, bicycle and e-mobility. Alexa is passionate about the intersection of these disciplines and finds new ways of uncovering how we can deal with the future uncertainty of sustainably getting around our cities.

On today’s show, Alexa and I explore how different concepts from social psychology can be applied in the transport sector, from dehumanizing beliefs to changing lifestyles of the millennial generation and the egocentric perpectives that are often adopted in shaping our cities. We discuss the relationship between society, roads and the built environment and look at how micromobility will evolve the so-called ‘contest’ for space in future. Detailed information is provided in the show notes over at Thank you for joining us today and please enjoy the show.


Alexa Delbosc is an Associate Professor in the Monash Institute of Transport Studies, Department of Civil Engineering at Monash University. She acquired a Bachelor degree in Psychology in 2003 from Lewis and Clark College, Portland Oregon. After graduating from Harvard University with a Masters in Social Psychology in 2005, Alexa wanted to apply her social science research skills to solve real-world problems and ventured into the transport research world, conferring her PhD in Civil Engineering from Monash University, Australia in 2013.

Her research has covered such topics as understanding the role that e-scooters can play in a city’s transport system, studying the travel behaviour and needs of diverse groups such as young adults, women and people from different ancestries, and exploring the changing mobility of the millennial generation. This last project has earned her a prestigious Discovery Early Career Research Award from the Australian Research Council. The intersection between transport engineering and social science is an emerging but very important frontier in transport research. The benefits of Alexa’s research are immeasurable, as she is able to directly inform transport policy and planning; cultivating strong industry and government contacts.

Resources Related to the Episode

  • All about Ornithology [Link]
    • I was once told that the bird sound I liked belonged to the Asian Warbler, turns out it’s the Asian Koel! Here’s what they sound like! Known as the “Uwu Bird”
    • We talked about birds and other animals around the topic of biodiversity on Episode 14 with Janine Bolliger
    • Best Bird Watching Binoculars reviewed by National Geographic
  • We have had the ivory tower discussion several times before on the show
  • The study of animal behaviour is called Ethology
  • Dehumanization of cyclists:
    • One of Alexa’s most cited papers: Delbosc, A., Naznin, F., Haslam, N. and Haworth, N., 2019. Dehumanization of cyclists predicts self-reported aggressive behaviour toward them: A pilot study. Transportation research part F: traffic psychology and behaviour62, pp.681-689. [Link]
    • The dehumanization scale that we talked about… based on the evolutionary map – Ape Scale and Insect Scale
The evolutionary-scale for dehumanization, both the Ape and Insect Scales (Source: Semantic Scholar)
  • Designing Cities for People and the critique of cities built around cars:
    • Jacobs, J., The Death and Life of Great American Cities; Reissue Edition; Vintage: New York, NY, USA, 1992. [View on Amazon]
    • Gehl, J., Cities for People. Island Press, 2010 [View on Amazon]
  • Alexa’s Papers on the Millennial Generation and transport behaviour:
    • Delbosc, A., McDonald, N., Stokes, G., Lucas, K., Circella, G. and Lee, Y., 2019. Millennials in cities: Comparing travel behaviour trends across six case study regions. Cities90, pp.1-14. [Link]
    • Delbosc, A. and Naznin, F., 2019. Future life course and mobility: A latent class analysis of young adults in Victoria, Australia. Transport Policy77, pp.104-116. [Link]
  • The impacts of the COVID19 Pandemic on transit behaviour was explored by Alexa as well and continued her study on the Millennial Generation
    • Delbosc, A. and McCarthy, L., 2021. Pushed back, pulled forward: Exploring the impact of COVID-19 on young adults’ life plans and future mobility. Transport policy107, pp.43-51. [Link]
    • Naseri, M., Delbosc, A. and Kamruzzaman, L., 2023. The role of neighbourhood design in cycling activity during COVID-19: An exploration of the Melbourne experience. Journal of transport geography106, p.103510. [Link]
    • Delbosc, A. and Kent, J., 2024. Employee intentions and employer expectations: a mixed-methods systematic review of “post-COVID” intentions to work from home. Transport Reviews44(2), pp.248-271. [Link]
    • Here is a timeline of the events during the pandemic in Melbourne
  • More about the “Third Space” or “Third Place” in cities [Wikipedia]
    • “How Third Places Bring Back the Joy of Being” [Medium Article]
    • A nice article from UNESCO about “Third Places” [UNESCO]
  • Social Psychology Concepts discussed in the episode are nicely summarized in Alexa’s paper… Delbosc, A., 2023. There is no such thing as unbiased research–is there anything we can do about that?. Transport reviews43(2), pp.155-158. [Link]
    • The “Slow City” Movement: Cicek, M., Ulu, S. and Uslay, C., 2019. The impact of the slow city movement on place authenticity, entrepreneurial opportunity, and economic development. Journal of Macromarketing39(4), pp.400-414. [Link]
    • The 20-minute neighbourhood or 15-minute City concepts that emphasise walkability
      • A recently published book talks about this concept: Moreno, C. The 15-Minute City: A Solution for Saving Our Time & Our Planet [View on Amazon]
    • Professor Bert van Wee from Delft – thinking about the counterfactuals
  • Micromobility and e-Mobility:
  • Easter Egg: All about Dungeons & Dragons

Episode Chapters

(Chapters are embedded in the episode for quick access, click this to expand and view all chapters and time stamps)
  • 00:00 Intro
  • 1:59 Guest Intro and Ornithology
  • 4:53 From animal behaviour to human behaviour
  • 7:56 Cars vs. Cyclists
  • 10:03 The Dehumanization Scale
  • 12:00 Addressing the contested road space
  • 16:25 Millennials and changing perceptions of the city
  • 23:54 The pandemic and its impact
  • 26:53 Work from home culture and transport
  • 29:46 Impact of the built environment and the third space
  • 31:32 Egocentric anchoring and other key social psychology concepts
  • 35:07 New ways of thinking about cities
  • 36:42 Is collective design the solution?
  • 40:00 New challenges in micromobility
  • 43:39 Where is transport planning heading to?
  • 46:47 Diversification of transport
  • 50:26 Q&A Start
  • 50:43 What inspires you?
  • 52:52 Key event, person, book
  • 53:31 If you had a magic wand?
  • 55:42 Biggest challenge in career to date
  • 57:30 Time management
  • 1:00:21 Advice for young researchers
  • 1:01:50 Easter Egg: Alexa’s D&D Campaign
  • 1:03:28 Where can people find you?
  • 1:04:06 Final Message
  • 1:04:30 Outro

Connect with Alexa Delbosc

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