Mapping and characterising children’s daily mobility in urban residential areas in Turku, Finland
Independent mobility in a local environment is crucial for a child’s development and physical activity, contributing to overall health and well-being. This methodological article describes a study capturing children’s daily mobility in two residential areas in Turku, southwestern Finland, by combining the methods of GPS tracking, mobility diaries, interviews and questionnaires. Geographical positioning data enables analysis of spatial characteristics of children’s mobility, e.g. the comparison to land use structure and analysis of the travel speed, while the qualitative data sets reveal how, why and with whom the travel was realised and the level of children’s independence in mobility.
The results show that children’s mobility is clustered around homes and schools and evident gender differences exist; boys travel longer distances and at higher speeds than girls. The children in Turku are relatively independent and have extensive mobility licenses. However, the travel undertaken to practise hobbies or participate in organised leisure activities is realised in adult company and significantly dominated by car transportation. The results strengthen the observation that Finnish children are allowed to travel rather independently and to explore the surrounding environment without adult company, using active forms of transportation. The significant level of independence is a consequence of the high perception of safety, both from the children and the parents in the residential areas. The described mixed methods approach, combining objective measurement of actual mobility with qualitative data sets, is applicable for further mobility studies and the results offer implications for planning child-friendly urban environments.