Tim Jones, Associate Lecturer and Research Fellow of Land Use and Transport in the Department of Planning at Oxford Brookes University, has collaborated with researchers at the Policy Studies Institute to produce a study on the erosion of children’s independence and mobility freedom.
The study analysed data from the past four decades to reveal that children have lost much of their unsupervised freedom in their local neighbourhood. Now only 25% of primary school children in England are allowed to travel home from school alone, compared to a substantial 87% in 1971. As well as travel to and from school, these statistics also apply to their leisure and recreational activities.
As well as revealing that primary school children have less mobility freedom now than they did forty years ago, the study found that they also experience less freedom than their German counterparts. This cross-cultural analysis was critical in showing that this loss of independence is not an inevitable part of modern life.
It has been theorised that this stark cross-cultural difference is due to the contrast in car culture and city planning. Many German cities have efficient public transport and safe, popular walking and cycling routes, along with the generous, well managed green spaces. These green, open spaces are laid out that almost all homes on the street look out onto them, contributing to a feeling of public safety; thus ultimately allowing greater freedom for children.
Tim Jones is now conducting a follow-on study, together with other researchers, of children’s independent mobility in a further sixteen countries around the world, which has been funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The results will be published towards the end of the year.