Photo copyright of Gordon Stokes

Image: Photo copyright of Gordon Stokes

Transport and Mobilities Across the Life Course

A life course approach sheds light on how people's lives, structural contexts, and social change can result in new or different mobility practices. Drawing from a range of disciplines, life course research points to the importance of particular life course events as 'triggers' and 'constraints' for different types of mobility. This approach offers important insights as socio-demographic changes (e.g. ageing population), environmental concerns (e.g. climate change and air pollution) and equity issues challenge us to rethink the current systems of transportation. In this series of seminars, we will explore the insights that can be gained from a life course approach in order to better understand current and future mobility needs, and opportunities to move towards low carbon, and equitable systems of mobility.

Seminars will be delivered on Tuesdays in weeks 2, 4, 6 & 8 of Hilary Term (January-March) 2017, 4-6pm at the School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford.

For more information on this seminar series, please contact

Photos of the two speakers, week 2
Week 2: 4-6pm, Tuesday, 24 January 2017 | Beckit Room, SoGE

A life course perspective: new mobilities and demography

The first of the Tranport Studies Unit's annual external seminar series was held on Tuesday 24th January, with invited presentations from Associate Professor Joachim Scheiner from the Faculty of Spatial Planning at Technische Universitat, Dortmund, and Clare Sheffield, Policy Analysis Manager at Transport for London.

Dr Scheiner spoke about his research using mobility biographies as a tool for gaining in-depth insights into changes in travel behaviour over the life course, and the role of life events in travel behaviours. He concluded that a range of interacting factors contribute to the development of travel behaviours, including key events that may not yet be studied. Moreover, he argued that "continuous daily stream/progression of action may impose more change than singular, disruptive events". Clare Sheffield talked about the work Transport for London is doing in planning for London's unique population. Clare showed the size and shape of the current London population, and discussed the challenges that TfL face in providing transport to meet the populations' needs. She specifically focused on changes to driving patterns, and showed the range of factors that may be contributing to these changes across cohorts.

Photos of the speakers, week 4
Week 4: 4-6pm, Tuesday, 7 February 2017 | Beckit Room, SoGE

The mobilities of young adults in the 21st Century

  • Prof Ann Berrington, University of Southampton | Young Adults' Licence Holding and Driving Behaviour in the UK
  • Jean Taylor, Senior Service Manager Policy & Partnerships, Lambeth Council | Understanding the Travel Aspirations, Needs and Behaviour of Young Adults
  • Chair: Dr Debbie Hopkins
  • Listen to podcast (Jean Taylor only) [MP3: 34.1MB / 37:20 mins]

On Tuesday, the 7th of January, the second external seminar brought stimulating talks delivered by Professor Ann Berrington, Professor of Demography and Social Statistics at the University of Southampton, and Jean Taylor, Senior Policy and Partnerships Manager with Lambeth Council.

Prof. Berrington critiqued a simple reading of the idea of "emergent adulthood", drawing on extensive demographic empirical findings to argue that the postponement of the life changes traditionally associated with adulthood-such as getting married, buying a house, or having children-may be owed in part to larger societal and economic changes that increasingly de-standardise and involuntarily undermine previously common life trajectories. These contextual influences may therefore explain some of the recent trends seen in the mobility of young adults, particularly with respect to the notion of "peak car". Jean Taylor discussed some of the results from earlier, largely qualitative, research she performed while at NatCen on the mobility hopes, needs, and behaviour of young adults. This included an examination of both directions of the relationship between young adults and travel, such as the way inadequate public transport in rural areas limits employment aspirations, or, conversely, how a move to London may expand travel options so as to facilitate upward social mobility.

Photos of the two speakers, week 6
Week 6: 4-6pm, Tuesday, 21 February 2017 | Gottmann Room, SoGE

Mobilities for an ageing population

The third seminar of the TSU's external series on 'Transport and Mobilities across the Life Course' focused on 'Transport for an Ageing Population', with invited presentations from Dr Charles Musselwhite, Associate Professor in Gerontology at the Centre for Innovative Ageing, University of Swansea, and Jane Vass OBE, Director of Policy and Research at AGE UK.

Dr Musselwhite asked whether the car is necessary for successful ageing, and discussed both the functional and symbolic importance of the car for older people. Drawing from critical gerontology, and using an ecological approach, he proposed an age-friendly transport system which considers individual mobility needs and desires as well as the built environment and neighbourhood walkability, access to attractive public and community transport, and a supportive policy environment. Jane Vass OBE spoke of mobility as a gateway to healthcare and health, to essential services, to communities and to wellbeing. In particular, she spoke of the particular mobility challenges for older people, including the increased propensity for multiple health conditions, and the systemic change that is required to better account for older people's mobilities. Policy makers need to better account for the full range of impacts arising from transport and built-environment decision making and their implications across the life course.

Photos of the two speakers, week 8
Week 8: 4-6pm, Tuesday, 7 March 2017 | Beckit Room, SoGE

Life events and mobilities across the life course

  • Dr Sara Tilley, University of Edinburgh | "You'll Need a Car, Won't You?": The changing impact of life events on mobility - from childbirth to retirement
  • Emma Aldrich, Regional Programme Officer (East & Southern Africa), Marie Stopes International | Transportation and Maternal Mortality: How constraints on mobility impact maternal health and well-being in Uganda
  • Chair: Dr Tim Schwanen
  • Listen to podcast [MP3: 78MB / 1:23:11 hours]

"Life Events and Mobilities Across the Life Course," the final seminar of the Transport Studies Unit's 2017 Hilary Term Seminar Series "Transport and Mobilities Across the Life Course" took place on Tuesday, the 7th of March.

In her presentation entitled, "'You'll Need a Car, Won't You?' The Changing Impact of Life Events on Mobility, from Childbirth to Retirement," Dr. Sara Tilley, from the University of Edinburgh, talked about a range of issues related to transport and life events. She focused most on maternal mobility, particularly some fascinating fieldwork she performed interviewing mothers with strollers who face difficulties finding social acceptance and space on buses. Emma Aldrich, the Regional Programme Officer for East and Southern Africa at Marie Stopes International, spoke about her earlier research in Uganda on the mobility of pregnant women. "Transportation and Maternal Mortality: How Constraints on Mobility Impact Maternal Health and Wellbeing in Uganda," took the audience through women's harrowing struggle to find means of transport so as to access medical assistance when going into labour. Both presenters offered a number of policy recommendations to remedy the shortcomings they found.