Asking counterfactuals to think about controversial policies

“As an anecdote: one of us lives in a 1930s neighbourhood. The local municipality proposed converting a road connecting the neighbourhood to other neighbourhoods from a two-direction road to a one-way road. This would apply to motorized traffic only, not to bicycles. Many people protested because of the detour they would have to take by car. We asked the counterfactual question: suppose the city would have introduced the one-way road decades ago, would they then heavily support a policy to make it a two-direction road? Several people we asked did not know, the main reason for not supporting that change being that it would result in more traffic, noise and pollution, and a reduction in safety.”

– Van Wee et al. (2023, p. 84)


Van Wee, B., Annema, J. A., & Van Barneveld, S. (2023). Controversial policies: Growing support after implementation. A discussion paper. Transport Policy, 139, 79–86.