They’ll never walk alone? The multiple settings of children’s active transportation and independent mobility

Project description

The PhD thesis of Anna Broberg examined the mobility behaviours of children and youth in two urban areas of Finland. The main objective was to identify the characteristics of the built environment which promote children’s independent mobility and active transportation. Concurrently, Anna developed new ways of conceptualizing and operationalizing the environment that matters for children’s mobility outcomes. Understanding the multiple ways in which the elements of the built environment matter for children’s active living requires a specific place-based methodology. In this thesis, an Internet-based softGIS method was used to collect data from children and youth on their mobility during school journeys as well as on their way to the places meaningful to them.

The findings of the thesis show that distance and consequently the density of the built environment are the most crucial elements of environment for children’s mobility. Moderately dense urban environments promote children’s independence and activity, whereas the places in the densest urban cores are reached in the company of adults using passive transport modes. However, the urban cores offer multitude of interesting things to experience. Anna concluded that planning and the promotion of physical activity should not concentrate exclusively on some specific journeys or on places specially designed for children and youth. Instead, the whole environment should be considered as a potentially meaningful setting for activities. Based on these findings, new urban areas should be connected to the existing urban structure, and good public transportation links should be developed to allow for independent mobility.

Research themes

Active living and urban lifestyles

Child and age-friendly environments

Project details

  • Start date:
    January 1, 2011
  • End date:
    December 31, 2015
  • Location:
    Helsinki, Turku
  • Funded by:
    Finnish Academy, Finnish Ministry of Education
  • Objectives:
    To study the mobility behaviours of children and youth in two urban areas of Finland

Project contact

Anna Broberg

Participating partners

Marketta Kyttä

Aalto University

Maarit Kahila

Aalto University

Satu Sarjala

Tampere University of Technology

Nora Fagerholm

University of Turku

Samuli Salminen

Aalto University

Related publications

Broberg, A. & Sarjala, S. (2015). School travel mode choice and the characteristics of the urban built environment: The case of Helsinki, Finland. Transport Policy 37, 1-10.

Kyttä, M., Broberg, A. & Kahila, M. (2012). Urban environment and children’s active lifestyle: SoftGIS revealing children’s behavioral patterns and meaningful places. American Journal of Health Promotion 26(5), e137-e148.

Broberg, A., Kyttä, M. & Fagerholm, N. (2013). Child-friendly urban structures: Bullerby revisited. Journal of Environmental Psychology 35, 110-120.

Broberg, A., Salminen, S. & Kyttä, M. (2013). Physical environmental characteristics promoting independent and active transport to children’s meaningful places. Applied Geography 38, 43-52.

Broberg, A. (2015). They’ll never walk alone? The multiple settings of children’s active transportation and independent mobility. Aalto University publication series Doctoral Dissertations 94/2015.

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