Mobility Camp 2022 - what did we learn? By Laura Putt and James GleaveLaura Putt headshot

On a rainy Thursday in September, transport planners from all over the country including myself got the train to Bristol to attend the annual Mobility Camp. In its fifth year, this unconference focussing on transport planning has evolved to become even more engaging, designed to focus on practical action and building a community of people wanting to use transport planning to make the world better! The Transport Planning Society has been a proud sponsor since the start and I’m personally grateful to the event for being the way I got to meet and work with so many like-minded people. A special shout out to James Gleave, Anna Rothnie, Pawel Bugajski and Kit Allwinter!

The 2022 theme was 'Backing Sustainable Transport.' Transport remains the UK’s largest emitting sector for greenhouse gases, representing 27% of the UK’s annual Carbon Emissions. We need to change the mindset and the approach to both public and private transport to hit the country's net-zero priority – but how?

In the stunning Engine Shed just outside Bristol Temple Meads station, Glenn Lyons started proceedings by setting out a compelling call to action:

  • We have a problem on our hands: our car-addicted society and the inequality, safety and carbon problems it brings.
  • Why do profit and politics and power take precedence over people, place, planet?
  • Why isn’t sustainable transport a vote winner?

The opening panel session set the tone for the day ahead. Richard Jones started with something simple: practical solutions that people can understand and buy. My good friend Anna Rothnie challenged us to Use our agency and power to make things better and challenge the status quo. Cat Swanson said that we have a wealth of experience and ideas. So let's focus on using the tools we have, and use fewer gimmicks. She also reminded us of the need to Support councils and their officers. Working with NALC, TPS produced a ‘Good councillors guide to transport planning’ (2019) which I wanted to share here as a handy resource for councillors and others in positions of responsibility related to transport.


Picture3Source: the ‘Fireside chat’ to start the day at Mobility Camp 2022,


Looking back on my notes from the discussion:

  • Change the system or make things better within constraints?
  • Are we evolving or muddling through?
  • Can we incentivise sustainable choices, or do we need a shock change? 
  • How are consumer choices changing?

To me, the rise of SUVs is a noticeable and unwelcome trend that came up in the Q&A session. Bigger, heavier vehicles seem to fly in the face of efforts to improve safety, air quality, fair use of public space and reduce climate change. Should there be restrictions on adverts that encourage damaging behaviour in the world of travel and transport, much like the ban on TV cigarette adverts starting in the 1960s and 1970s? A recent example would be Lufthansa adverts being banned in the UK by the Advertising Standards Agency – the adverts were deemed to be misleading consumers that it’s green initiatives were protecting the future of the world ( .

Some would argue that whole swathes of advertising campaigns are contributing to an image of acceptable ‘green’ choices, which don’t actually tackle many of the problems of sustainability, health, equitable use of public space, air pollution and road danger. For example the promotion of electric cars, positive in reducing harmful air pollutants at point of use still represent a huge consumption of energy and carbon in their production and disposal, and rare elements required for the batteries.

Instead of promoting these beautiful new vehicles as status symbols, should we spend more effort redesigning towns and cities so that people don’t need to rely so much on private vehicles, and make walking and cycling a more suitable and appealing choice?

I wrote this blog to remind myself and others that it is healthy to be outside ‘the day job’, even if just for one day a year. A chance to meet and speak with others, discuss different ideas and places and think about the big picture and challenges that we, as transport planners, have an opportunity to help address.

Back to the event itself. There were three strands to the event throughout the day, and the amazing illustrator, Camille Aubry danced between the rooms to record a visual representation of the sessions. I joined the one on public consultation and engagement. We talked about Personal vs group responsibility and action How to engage community in consultation and make sure we hear all the voices in a community not just the ones that are louder or more confident. We had ideas for family friendly engagement events, a place for kids to play whilst parents and neighbours have a cup of tea and get to discuss current issues and plans for their area. We heard examples of the role of social media in pulling groups together to take action and the risks of these platforms in skewing the picture.

There are no easy answers to these big questions but there were connections made and shared experiences and commitments from those in the room to take forward specific actions eg push for bus franchising in West Midlands.

If you like the idea of having a chance to discuss the big questions and form the content of a transport ‘unconference’, why not join in this year? The 2023 Mobility Camp has just been announced - it will be in Birmingham on 26 September. You can find out more and get your tickets on the Mobility Camp website.


Picture1Source: Live illustrated by Camille Aubry,


Picture4Source: Mobility Camp 2022



Laura works at TfL but the views in this article are purely her own - they do not represent the views or policy of her employer. She was Board Member for TPS for 6 years and remains involved running the Bursary Competition for young professionals, more info here:

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