Holly Weir

Supervisors: Rachel Aldred, Ben Shaw

Phenomenal Landscapes: Exploring children’s neighbourhood mobility and their experiences within three east London neighbourhoods

Children are now seen less in public space and spend less time outdoors than ever before. They can also often be restricted in their movements when they are allowed out, with less ‘independent mobility’ than in the past. This study explores children’s neighbourhood mobility in Hackney, east London. It explores children’s own experiences within their neighbourhoods at different times of the year, focusing on their use of the public places and spaces within these both for travel and play. It seeks to understand how children themselves feel about their mobility, drawing from the eld of environmental psychology and taking a child-centred approach to the work.

The children in the study had high levels of active travel, moving around their neighbourhoods mostly on foot and knew them well. Being physically independent was less important to them than the level of autonomy that the children had in their use of their neighbourhoods. Being able to get around on foot helped them to develop this autonomy, even when accompanied by an adult, and these early experiences of active travel were shown to support the development of a child’s future independent mobility.

The study found that the built environment plays an important role in children’s use of their neighbourhoods, particularly the threshold spaces outside of a child’s home, the transitory spaces supporting active travel around a neighbourhood and the destination spaces, or places to go. However, the built environment does not function in isolation. It was found that the interaction of other factors, such as social and cultural influences, individual characteristics, the school environment and the children’s relationship with the natural environment were what influenced children’s behaviour. The themes of permission and motivation are used to highlight the different levels of influence and how these factors interact to influence children’s behaviour and use of space.