Young age, mobility and social inclusion in a disadvantaged urban periphery in England
Scholarly interest in researching the physical mobility of young people and young adults has been comparably less extensive with regard to other age groups (Evans 2008), for example older people (Shergold and Parkhurst 2012) or young children (O’Brien et al. 2000). Sparse research engagement with this particular age group also applies to the academic discourse around transport, as a particular facet of the broad conceptualisation of mobility (Sheller and Urry 2006), and its interrelationship with social inclusion, deﬁned as the process by which people participate as active agents in society, for example in decisionmaking, access to health and social care, and through participation in education, work and other valuable cultural and social activities (Kenyon et al. 2002; Social Exclusion Unit 2003). In the past ﬁve decades, the assumption of mass car ownership and use,
coupled with changing work and lifestyle patterns, has exacerbated conditions of disadvantage for the so-called ‘vulnerable transport users’ – low income groups, older and younger people, and those with no car access (Titheridge et al. 2014; Lucas 2004; Social Exclusion Unit 2003). Processes of social exclusion through lack of access or mobility have a clear generational dimension and vary considerably through the lifecourse, with people at the margins of the age spectrum being particularly vulnerable. Despite enjoying a peak of interest in the late 1990s and early 2000s especially
in the context of developed economies, the connections between mobility, transport and social exclusion have attracted less political attention in more recent years. Meanwhile, local transport policy, at least in the UK, has been slow in taking concrete action to systematically address the issues identiﬁed by the available empirical evidence on the links between transport and social exclusion (Lucas 2012). In this context, it is perhaps unsurprising that there is a relative paucity of peer-reviewed academic studies focusing speciﬁcally on the experiences of young people as users of the transport system and which examine the mobility contexts in which decisions about further or higher education, training and employment are made, and how participation in these activities takes place (for a study of mobility barriers to accessing higher
education see Kenyon 2011). With this chapter I seek to address this gap and enhance the academic literature on young people’s and young adults’ physical mobility, with particular reference to the transport and social inclusion debate and from an intergenerational and lifecourse perspective. I provide a critical examination of the generational nature of mobility cultures, practices, needs and constraints emerging from the situated experiences of young age, and show how these can aﬀect young people’s life opportunities, choices and participation in further learning and employment. To this end, I will use selected key ﬁndings from a qualitative research study I carried out in 2014 with a cross-section of young people in Bristol, funded by the University of the West of England through an early career research grant scheme. The rest of the chapter is structured as follows. The next section situates my
research project in the broader academic discourse around the generational and lifecourse perspectives on young age, identity, mobility and social inclusion. I then illustrate the methodology I adopted in generating and analysing the qualitative data. Selected key ﬁndings are thematically presented and discussed by examining how social identity was represented in the context of place and institutionalised, adultist notions of young age; how mobility was discussed in relation to processes of growing up and ‘moving on’ through the lifecourse; what cultures, practices, needs and aspirations were attached to diﬀerent mobilities and how these shaped, and in turn were shaped by, generational identities and intergenerational relations; ﬁnally, what constraints to independent mobility were discussed in relation to access to life chances and their implications for well-being. The concluding section suggests potential lines of academic inquiry for future research.