Mobility explained: Intervention

I’m going to try to introduce different terms here to bring insights and knowledge for all Telraam Talks members. Some of these will be familiar to you, some may not. I hope we can all learn from them, and if you have more to add, PLEASE do add your thoughts in the discussion below.


Definition: An intervention can be described as a coherent, organised, structured set of objectives and activities implemented to try to improve the overall experience of those who use a particular street or street spaces.


I’ve started using this term a bit myself, and realised it can mean many things, but in terms of mobility it is a useful term.

An intervention literally means the process of taking part in something to affect a result or course of events. It is used in medicine, for example, to refer to surgery or course of treatment. It is also used in psychology, to refer to treatment for a disorder, and even used in relation to drugs, when you confront an addict to persuade them to seek professional help.

As you can see, it is generally an approach to ‘fix’ something that is not working as well as it should. Defining what the ‘right’ outcome and how to achieve this can be a whole different discussion, but for now we are looking at the ACTION.

There are effectively two separate categories of interventions:

  • physical: street engineering and structural changes
  • social: through education, traffic laws / regulation, and “social contracts”

… and of course they can be, and usually are, combined.

Physical interventions are measures involving engineering or structural changes to the road design that impact the way a street can be used. For example, these might be designed to reduce vehicle speeds, such as by introducing chicanes (twisting sections) or speed bumps. They might be improvements to intersections between streets that are intended for different use (e.g. major roads vs residential) to block entry for certain users. It might also mean making special physical arrangements for certain users, like adding a protective barrier for cycle lanes, or bollards to protect road-side parks, or even special surfaces to reduce the noise of tyres.

Social interventions are ‘soft’ ones that may not alter the streetscape itself, but still change behaviour. It might be enforcing lower speed limits through signage rather than barriers, or adding cameras to deter misuse. It can also refer to education programmes that encourage a wider use of streets for social interaction and active travel rather than as a conduit for cars.

In other words, ‘intervention’ is the often-used term that means:

“We’ve got a plan to make a change we hope will make this space better”


NL: interventie
FR: intervention
DE: Interventionen
ES: intervención
PT: intervenção

(can you add more terms, or more languages? suggest them below and I will update the post)

1 Like

Interesting. We do say indeed ‘interventie’ in Dutch. But sometimes it feels a bit too soft. It feels like just intervening and not really deciding and taking action. I think the word ‘Measures’ is stronger. Especially when you then say ‘Implement Measures’. Then it is for sure, and not just a trial :).
But just my thoughts.