The facts are clear – life events change travel behaviour

This is the headline of a Viewpoint piece we  published in Local Transport Today based on the findings of the Life Transitions project. In the article we refer to Phil Goodwin who suggested people might have other things on their mind than reconsidering their travel behaviour when major events occur in their lives. It is therefore not a given that travel behaviour is more likely to change at these times. We summarise the results of our research which found (for almost all of the life events examined) that people experiencing life events are more likely to change travel behaviour than those who do not. You can read the article here.

It encourages transport professionals to contemplate how their policies and practices can be enhanced by recognizing the importance of life events as moments where behaviour is reconsidered. We have also provided some specific suggestions ourselves of how policy goals and actions can respond to our findings (drawing on insights from our earlier policy workshop). These are summarised in a policy matrix available for download from the Outputs page.

‘Life-Course and Life-Cycle Effects in Travel Behaviour’ special session at TRB 2015

Kiron presented the paper ‘Changes to commute mode: The role of life events, spatial context and environmental attitude in a special session devoted to ‘Life-Course and Life-Cycle Effects in Travel Behaviour’ at the annual US Transportation Research Board conference in Washington D.C., Jan 2015. The session was conceived and chaired by Professor Junyi Zhang (Hiroshima University).

Apart from Kiron, there were two presentations by researchers from TU Dortmund who had hosted the Mobility Biographies and Mobility Socialisation workshop in Dortmund in February 2014 which Kiron attended. They both reported results from the three generations biographical data that has been obtained via students at TU Dortmund. Janna Albrecht presented findings on how the residential history of the current adult generation is influenced by that of their parents, while Lisa Döring focused on employment histories and gave results on how the number of work trip episodes of adults is influenced by the number of work trip episodes experienced by their parents. In addition, Lama Bou Mjahed (Northwestern University, US) gave a presentation on how childhood travel experiences influence walking in adult life and Jae Hyun Lee (University of California, Santa Barbara) compared life-cycle groups in terms of daily contacts and activity-travel time allocation.

Working with practitioners to identify policy implications

On 26 September we held a workshop in Bristol attended by over 30 practitioners from the four local authorities in the West of England. These authorities have been pioneering ‘smarter choices’ policies and actions to influence travel behaviours at the time of life transitions (moving to secondary school, starting university, moving home, starting new job) through a wide ranging programme of Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) initiatives. Examples of this include Travel Information Packs for new home owners, events promoting cycling to new students and free sustainable transport options to help those searching for work.


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Walk to work and improve your mental wellbeing

The question of whether the method of transport you use to get to work affects your mental wellbeing is bound to grab attention[1] and this has certainly been the case with the study by Adam Martin, Yevgeniy Goryakin and Marc Suhrcke[2] from the Health Economics Group at the University of East Anglia.


An ONS study[3] published in February 2014 found that those who walked, cycled or took the bus to work had lower personal wellbeing than car commuters. A rather different result is reported by Martin et al. Their analysis used 18 years of data from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), containing repeated observations for individuals of commuting mode and travel time and psychological symptoms. The longitudinal data gave them a stronger basis for causal inference than previous studies, as they could not only control for measured differences between individuals that could confound the relationship between commute mode and wellbeing (these were also taken into account by ONS), but also unmeasured differences (e.g. preferences for travel) and they could assess how transitions between commute modes affect wellbeing.  Hence their work can be considered the most robust evidence to date on the relationship between commuting and wellbeing.

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Reflections on our end of project seminar

Back on 16 June 2014 we held an end of project event at the Department of Transport (DfT) in London. DfT was a partner in our project (a ‘policy user’), helping to direct the project, and we were delighted that it agreed to host the end of project event. It was actually two events. First of all, there was an hour-long high-level policy briefing with DfT staff. Then in the afternoon we held a fuller seminar, open to those from outside DfT. There were about 30 people in attendance at each with the afternoon audience including university academics, local authority transport practitioners and transport and marketing consultants.

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Mobility Biographies and Mobility Socialisation

Kiron attended the Mobility Biographies and Mobility Socialisation workshop in Dortmund in February 2014.

The life stages of man

The workshop demonstrated a strong body of research in Austria, Germany and Switzerland which is looking at how travel behaviour evolves over the life course and is affected by social and residential context. In particular, a collaborative project involving universities in Dortmund, Frankfurt and Zurich is using biographical data collected for family members of three generations to obtain unique insights on locational and mobility decisions and their relationship to events over the life course and how these vary between the generations.

A write-up of the event can be downloaded here.

Lifecourse Transitions: Opportunities for Sustainable Lifestyles?

Kiron presented at the ‘Lifecourse Transitions: Opportunities for Sustainable Lifestyles?‘ event hosted by the University of Surrey in July.

The workshop brought academics from different disciplines together to share their experience researching the influence of lifecourse transitions (LCTs) on sustainable lifestyles. With a strong presence of sociologists, attention was given to developing a richer conceptualising of habits and LCTs. A prevailing theme was the question of how much agency individuals have over behaviour (or practices) when they undergo LCTs given the structures within which they live. The workshop inspired those present to refine how they think about LCTs and use this to allow richer understandings to be gained on the behaviours/practices they study.

A write-up of the event can be downloaded here.