Our trial is live! Encouraging greater kindness on London buses
Over the past number of months, we have been working closely with TfL and bus operators in London to develop new bus signage to encourage more engagement between passengers and drivers - hoping to make interaction when boarding and alighting the new norm. But why bother with such small and fleeting interactions? Research has demonstrated the immense cumulative impact that these kinds of mico-interactions can have, including better subjective wellbeing, reduced loneliness¹.
These signs have been installed on over one hundred buses in Hammersmith (our pilot site) and aim to ‘prompt’/remind passengers to engage with drivers in the moment. They have been placed on the driver cab door beside the Oyster reader and on the exit doors.
This trial is informed by months of observational research on board buses and co-design work with drivers, who highlighted the value of passengers' engagement - how they feel seen and respected. As one driver put it “it boosts my immune system when passengers say thank you”. We worked with drivers to identify different ways that we might encourage more of this engagement, which helped to inform the stickers that were developed.
Our observational research highlighted the need to encourage more interactions. Counts of nearly 4,000 passenger behaviours indicated that only 2 in 10 passengers greet a driver when boarding (either verbally or with a physical gesture), and less than 1 in 10 passengers acknowledge the driver when alighting (either verbally or physically). Even though 84% of the 116 passengers surveyed felt that engaging in this way had a positive impact for drivers. In passengers' own words, it’s “rewarding”, “makes their day better”, “gives them a lift”.
So, it was clear that there is a disconnect between what passengers think and how they behave. Passengers believe that it is important to do, and yet they are not doing it. In the hustle and bustle of commuting, they may simply be forgetting to engage. These stickers aim to remind passengers of the value of this engagement when in the moment.
We are extremely proud of this work and are very thankful to our partners at TfL, RATP Dev, Metroline and Abellio for their continued support and engagement with this project. We are excited to see the results of the trial to explore the impact of these stickers, hoping that more drivers realise that we appreciate them, and more passengers feel seen too. We will keep you updated, but in the meantime, don’t forget to say hello and thanks when riding your local bus - it means more than you know.
With thanks, as always, to The National Lottery Community Fund, and their Bringing People Together Grant for enabling us to do this work
1. Gunaydin, G., Oztekin, H., Karabulut, D. H., & Salman-Engin, S. (2021). Minimal social interactions with strangers predict greater subjective well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 22(4), 1839-1853.