Climate protection and health through active mobility
Can a climate-friendly mobility transition also contribute to the health of the population? Dr Jan Keller and his junior research group AMBER are investigating how this can be achieved by promoting walking, cycling or the use of public transport.
Interests in a double pack: Environment & People
When Jan Keller looks back on his childhood and youth, one activity immediately comes to mind: discovering Brandenburg's nature and the Mecklenburg Lake District with his family. The 36-year-old remembers the time fondly: "We went on bike tours and did mushroom picking in the forest. I was and still am very fond of the countryside and like the vastness and tranquillity that comes from bodies of water."
Besides his interest in the environment, he was particularly interested in human behaviour. The choice of his degree programme was thus obvious: psychology. Even today, Jan Keller is fascinated by the subject, "because there are many things we don't yet know or can explain." The fact that physical activity is still part of Jan Keller's everyday life is shown by his preference for covering distances with his own feet or by bicycle: This includes walks or jogs along the Spree river, a fast walk to the S-Bahn or cycling to AMBER project meetings at the Institute for Ecological Economy Research, where his colleague Vivian Frick works..
AMBER junior research group
His dissertation was dedicated to promoting physical activity in people's everyday life and he is currently analyzing data from a study on sustainable and active commuting behaviors. "Active commuting, that is commuting by walking, cycling or using public transport, aims at both promoting physical activity and reducing greenhouse emissions, and thus has the potential to contribute to many of the United Nations' 'Sustainable Development Goals' (SDGs)." How people get to work is often a highly automated behaviour that many people perform without thinking about it. Research has shown that an existing habit can lead to the formation of a new habit through the repeated performance of a new behaviour in the same context.
Jan Keller exchanged ideas with his colleague Vivian Frick on how active mobility could lead to individual changes as well as the change of structures. This is how they developed the AMBER project (Active Mobility for maintained Benefits of Health and Environment), which they have been leading together since the beginning of 2023.
Creating knowledge together with citizens and initiating change
It is very important to Jan Keller that people are actively participating in research. Within the framework of AMBER, he and the entire junior research group want to empower people to advocate for a healthy and sustainable environment.
So-called Citizen Science projects will be developped and carried out in Berlin in 2025 and in Frankfurt (Oder) in 2026. "We want to study a large, preferably representative target group for the two cities. Citizens will also measure their everyday routes via a study app. For example, we want to learn which routes show particularly high levels of noise pollution. By jointly going through their data with the junior research group will give citizens the opportunity to actively participate in research," Keller explains. With the results obtained, the AMBER project aims to showcase which structural factors - such as low traffic neighborhoods- can favour a healthy and sustainable mobility transition. To this end, the junior research group is also working together with civil society organisations. In this way, results from the research in AMBER should also support their daily work for the mobility transition. According to Jan Keller, results from the cities examined in AMBER can also be a "blueprint" for other cities.
AMBER and career
Leading the junior research group is very important for the scientific career of Jan Keller. "I think that the intersection between health, climate protection and sustainability will be an important, future-oriented avenue in psychology. Moreover, I am learning a lot about various topics from mobility research - a large and interdisciplinary field of research." In the future, he would like to continue working in research and teaching in a university context.