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Changing Patterns of Everyday Mobility

United Kingdom
United Kingdom Flag
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Smart mobility and services (SMO)
Transport mode
Road icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues
Transport sectors
Passenger transport


Background & Policy context

Everyday mobility encompasses journeys to work and for education; trips for shopping, to meet friends and for a wide range of leisure activities. Common sense suggests that that the frequencies of such trips, and the distances travelled, have increased over the twentieth century. However, increased home-based entertainment, on-line shopping and concerns about safety may restrict mobility for some people. Theoretical studies, relating to the impacts of modernity, post-modernity and globalisation suggest ways in which changes may have occurred. However, there has been no research exploring how and why changes in everyday mobility have evolved over the twentieth century.


The objective of this project is to examine the way that everyday mobility has changed during the twentieth century.


A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. Four cohorts of respondents in Manchester/Salford and Lancaster/Morecambe were identified and interviewed in depth about their everyday mobility patterns at specific points in their lives. The research was based on detailed questionnaires and in-depth life history interviews with 156 respondents in four age categories, ranging from 10/11 to 60 years of age. In all, the researchers collected 160 hours of taped interviews and data on over 895,000 individual trips.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Research agency
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


The results from this research are outlined below:

- The results reveal the high degree of variability in individual travel needs and behaviour and emphasise the need for increased flexibility in contemporary transport policy.

- Most people's everyday travel experiences had changed very little since the 1940s, despite the increase in affluence and car ownership. For children aged 10/11 both the total distance travelled and the average trip length increased slightly, but the mean time spent travelling declined a little.

- There has been a predictable decline in walking and bus travel and increase in car use, but walking still accounts for over 60 per cent of all trips by children aged 10/11 at the time of interview. This challenges some general statements about a decline in the amount of exercise children get through walking.

- There has been a decline in the proportion of 10/11 year olds allowed to travel around the study towns unaccompanied, but even today over 50 per cent of trips are taken without an adult.

- Girls are more likely than boys to be accompanied and are more likely to walk or use public transport.

- Accounts of children's play experiences have also changed little since the 1940s. Key themes in discussing play include the importance of boundaries, the significance of traffic, the need for children to tell parents where they are going, the nature of rules, and the impact of territorial rivalry between different groups of children.

- The area in which children play today seems to have shrunk over time. In the 1940s some children were allowed to roam freely over a wide area. There are signs of a far greater parental control for today's 10 year olds, and most modern youngsters had never had to deal with risk and had therefore not had the opportunity to learn to negotiate and to deal with challenges.

- While the children who were aged 10/11 when interviewed said they were nervous of being abducted or run over, respondents who were the same age in the 1940s said they swam in dirty canals and played in air raid shelters and did not tell their parents about encounters with 'flashers'. This is thought to reflect the much greater publicity given by both national and local media to a small number of specific events such as child abductions and related dangers.

- People in their sixties are much more mobile than at any time in the past, but older people also adjus

Policy implications

This research will be of interest to academics in a wide range of social science disciplines working on mobility, transport and social change. In addition the research will be of interest to audiences interested in local history. Through conferences and journal articles the research results have been brought to the attention of some groups of transport planners.

The following ideas for further research arising from the project have been identified:

1/ Further research on the interaction between residential migration and everyday mobility.

2/ Development of a research proposal on mobility and identity, focusing on the ways in which long-distance commuting impacts upon local and regional identities.

3/ Development of a book proposal provisionally entitled 'Global Mobility: A history of everyday travel'.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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