Credit: J Bewley

New research project launched to address transport-related barriers faced by young people

Sustrans has teamed up with the University of the West of England to launch a new research project that aims to address transport-related barriers faced by people aged 12-24 years in the UK.

Transport to Thrive will explore why transport is important to young people’s ability to reach the opportunities they need to become thriving and healthy adults, whilst highlighting the issues they face. The project will identify and examine the effectiveness of a selection of policy and practice solutions in supporting young people to reach opportunities.

Running until August 2023, it will produce insights and outputs that are useful for supporting policy and industry action. It will bring together an interest group of policy and industry stakeholders that are committed to tackling the transport-related barriers that young people face. A panel of young volunteers will also be recruited to share their experiences and to guide project priorities.

“Young people have specific needs from a transport system. Many young people have less disposable income and are more likely to rely on public transport than other age groups,” said Sarah Collings, senior research fellow in transport and young people at the University of the West of England.

“It is also a time in life to access education, training, apprenticeships and first jobs. However, not all of these places are well-served by transport options that are available to young people. We should not accept a transport system that does not meet the needs of our young population. Action to address transport exclusion for young people will help to safeguard their futures.

“The pandemic has added to issues of exclusion for young people. We have seen a fall in employment prospects, an interruption to education and social activities, and a decline in mental health. If we are serious about supporting young people to recover from the pandemic, we need to identify, and account for, the impacts of transport decisions on the young cohort.

“Transport to Thrive contributes to this. Through the project, we will identify and evaluate schemes that support inclusion for young people. Ultimately, we would like to see a country in which transport decisions and investment are based on equitable access options for mobility for all age groups and within the diverse cohort of young people.

“We will work towards this vision by improving understanding on how transport and transport decisions impact on a diverse cohort of young people. We will raise awareness of these issues and bring together a community of decision-makers and young people interested in tackling the barriers that young people face.”

Andy Cope, director of evidence and insight at Sustrans, added: “Few young people have access to a car, so walking and cycling can have an important role to play in helping younger people to access opportunity.

“However, too few young people are choosing to walk or cycle, partly due to poor facilities and partly due to not developing skills and capabilities. This also represents a risk factor for current and future physical health and mental wellbeing. We have seen how the pandemic has had a disproportionate economic effect on young people. Getting the transport system right for young people is vital in starting to redress the balance.

“Through Transport to Thrive, we hope to understand how our planning systems, and in particular cycling and walking infrastructure, can support younger people to reach the places that they want to go.”

Transport to Thrive is funded as part of the Health Foundation’s Young People’s Future Health Enquiry Inquiry. The inquiry found that, for young people from across the UK, transport is a barrier for reaching opportunities pivotal to their life chances.

Martina Kane, policy and engagement manager at the Health Foundation, said: “Between the ages 12 and 24 is a crucial time for young people as they build the foundations for a healthy adulthood. We are funding Transport to Thrive as our Young People’s Future Health Inquiry identified the important role that transport plays in building the foundations of a healthy future.

“Reliable, affordable transport allows young people to access good quality work, to live in secure and affordable housing and forge strong relationships with their friends, families and communities. As policymakers look towards a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, young people’s long-term health needs to be at the heart of their decision making.”

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