The promotion of active, independent, safe mobility for children and young people is an important concern and field of research at the Institute of Transport Studies at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna. The YOUNG MOBILITY platform presents projects, campaigns and student work on child and youth mobility at the Institute of Transport Studies.

Young age groups at the center of transport research

Juliane Stark, 03/2024

Children and young people are a relevant age group in transport behavior research for several reasons. A key aspect that underlines the special nature of this group are recent observable trends in the area of mobility, physical activity and health behavior, which represent an unsustainable development and indicate a need for action: Trends show continuously decreasing rates of physical activity (PA) among children and adolescents (e.g. WHO 2018). In Austria, for example, only 17% of pupils meet the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations for physical activity in children (Maier et al., 2017; Ramelow et al., 2015).

Physical Activity recommendations for children and yout 6-18 years, Austria (according to Fonds Gesundes Österreich, 2020)

Falling PA levels are associated with negative health consequences, e.g. rising rates of obesity (e.g. Pucher et al., 2010; Lobstein et al., 2004). In a study from 2016, 65% of young people between the ages of 14 and 29 reported having physical complaints (Knechtsberger & Schwabl, 2016). In line with these developments, declining rates of active forms of mobility (walking, cycling) can also be observed in the everyday lives of children and young people in Austria (Tomschy et al., 2016).

Travel behaviour of young age groups (according toTomschy et al., 2016 & 2017)

To make matters worse, children’s independent mobility also appears to be declining (e.g. Shaw et al., 2013; Frauendienst & Redecker, 2011). These tendencies of inactivity in children can also have consequences for their road participation and road safety when they are adults. For example, because their psychomotor skills are not well trained, which can lead to difficulties when cycling (Meschik et al., 2017). Children are per se a vulnerable group in road traffic for many reasons. Among other things, their small size and not (fully) developed traffic skills (Schützhofer et al., 2015) play a role here. In Austria, road traffic is one of the main causes of death in the 15 to 24 age group; young motorcyclists in particular are among the groups with the highest accident rates (Statistik Austria, 2011). Overall, there is still great potential when it comes to designing a child-friendly traffic and mobility system. The latter means not only creating infrastructure that promotes safe walking, scooting and cycling, but also seeing the traffic area as a place to stay and play – as a living space.

Key points of a child-friendly transportation system (Stark, 2021)

The topics described clearly show how important it is to promote active forms of mobility for this age group. Efficient interventions are needed that aim to shape attitudes and mobility behavior at an early stage in terms of sustainable transport development and counteract the later development of car-oriented lifestyles. This can only succeed if decision-makers, planners, educators and parents pull together. Parents in particular are a key factor, as children’s mobility behavior is not (only) an expression of their own decisions, but the result of complex household decisions. Stakeholders need to develop an understanding that integrating active forms of mobility into children’s everyday mobility can contribute to their well-being and quality of life (e.g. Friman et al., 2018; Waygood et al., 2017 & 2018; Stark et al., 2018c) and that child-friendly transportation spaces benefit everyone.

Even if some determinants of mobility behavior are known, there is a need for further research when it comes to influencing the mobility behavior and mobility-related attitudes of young people. This also highlights methodological aspects that make research on children and young people in the context of mobility and transport a particular challenge.


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