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Mobility of children and young people in Switzerland 1994 to 2015

More ways by public transport and on foot than by bicycle

Räder eines Kinderfahrrads auf der Straße
© Doris Reichel

Children and young people in Switzerland use public transport more frequently than twenty years ago. They are also more often on foot. In return, they ride their bicycles less. Scooters, kickboards and similar devices are becoming increasingly popular, and there has also been a slight increase in "parent taxi" service for the journey to school. This is shown by an analysis with English summary (pp. 41-50) by the Federal Offices of Public Health (FOPH), Sport (FOSPO) and Roads (FEDRO).

How children and young people use transport has changed over the last 20 years. There has been a shift towards more public transport and more walking. Young people between the ages of 16 and 20 also cover significantly longer distances: they now make many more trips by public transport and on foot than by bicycle. The proportion of cyclists has declined sharply, especially among 13 to 15-year-olds, but it now seems to have bottomed out. There has been a slight increase in the use of mini-scooters, kickboards and other vehicle-like devices.

The way to school is mostly on foot

There are considerable differences between the language regions in terms of mobility behaviour on the way to school: In German-speaking Switzerland, children and young people most often walk, cycle or use public transport. In French- and Italian-speaking Switzerland, the proportion of cyclists is significantly lower than in German-speaking Switzerland.

The proportion of "parental taxi" service on the way to school is less than is often assumed, and is only occasionally in the double-digit percentage range. Driving children to and from school is more common in French- and Italian-speaking Switzerland than in German-speaking Switzerland, and is more common in high-income communities and households with several cars. The differences between the language regions are probably partly due to the greater distances and the different cantonal school systems.

The increased use of public transport for the way to school reflects the increasing centralisation of school locations. This leads to longer travel distances that can no longer be covered exclusively on foot or by bicycle. This development is intensified by timetables adapted to school hours or actual school buses. For the use of bicycles it is crucial how and where the bikes can be parked. In French-speaking Switzerland and Ticino there are fewer parking spaces than in German-speaking Switzerland. In addition, the quality of the infrastructure is higher in German-speaking Switzerland than in the other regions of the country, for example in terms of theft protection and weather protection.

More "parent taxi" service leisure related trips

Leisure-related trips were made essentially on foot or by car, e.g. for sports or cultural activities. Public transport is much less important to young people for their leisure time than for their ways to school.

Today, more children and young people have a public transport season ticket than before. Mopeds, motorcycles and cars are used less frequently. In addition, far fewer young adults between the ages of 18 and 22 now have a driver's license (2015: 56%) than in 2000 (67%). However, at the age of 27 to 30, practically the same number of people again have a car driver's license as before.

The mobility patterns of children and young people are an important indicator of the quality of life and the development of traffic behaviour in the future. Mobility patterns have changed, sometimes dramatically, over the last 20 years. This report describes the developments, interrelationships and - as far as possible - the background to them. The analysis is based on the microcensus data "Mobility and Transport" (MZMV) from 1994, 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015 of the Federal Statistical Office and the Federal Office for Spatial Development. The mobility requirements were included, e.g. the availability of bicycles or public transport season tickets and the availability of households for cars. The analysis also included the length of distances travelled and the use of means of transport - presented according to purpose and differentiated according to school and leisure travel, age, gender, part of the country and other criteria.

Download analyses (English abstract on p. 8, English summary on pp. 41-50)

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18. September 2019
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