Urban or rural residents: which group actively travels more?

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Research supports the need for different approaches to ‘active travel’ in urban and rural areas.

Using data from Understanding Society, researchers from the ESRC-funded Health of Populations and Ecosystems (HOPE) research project at the University of York have shown that there is a case for local governments to take a differentiated policy approach if they wish to encourage ‘active travel’ among both urban and rural populations.

‘Active travel’ is defined as walking and cycling short journeys such as visiting friends, commuting or going to the shops. It simultaneously tackles two of the major challenges facing society: more sedentary lifestyles and the health concerns associated with them, and environmental changes caused by burning fossil fuels. Active travel therefore delivers twin benefits, in that more active behaviour is also better for the environment.

The researchers found that urban residents were 64 per cent more likely to report that they always or very often walked or cycled short journeys of less than two to three miles.

High-earning urban residents were less likely to take opportunities to travel actively, particularly if they had children, although those educated to degree-level were more likely to cycle or walk short journeys.

In contrast, rural residents in both higher and lower income brackets tended to use their cars for shorter journeys regardless of education or whether they had children or not.

Jayne Hutchinson, who analysed the data from Understanding Society, says: “Active travel is high on the policy agenda but the understanding of its social patterning is limited, particularly the differences between urban and rural residents in the UK. Recognising and understanding the variations between these populations may help local governments to devise policies that are tailored to their communities.”

You can download the full article Differences in the social pattering of active travel between urban and rural populations: findings from a large UK household survey’

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this news has been re-posted from the Understanding Society website