‘Transportation poverty’ in every section of Belgian population
Transport poverty occurs in every section of the Belgian population, and there are five profiles of less mobile Belgians. This is the conclusion of a study by Mobiel 21 and the Network Sustainable Mobility (Netwerk Duurzame Mobiliteit), in cooperation with researchers from the University of Ghent and the VUB Brussels.
In the study, based on an extensive questionnaire of over 900 people who do not make a journey an average of twice a week, the researchers of the study distinguish five profiles of less mobile populations.
These include the highly educated mobile elderly with a car and bicycle (31,28%), and young starters or urbanites with a lower income and a bicycle but no car (22,84%). Another category comprises low-educated city-dwellers with poor physical health and without a bicycle or car who depend on public transport (13,74%).
The last two categories are average educated elderly suburban residents who depend on a car and without a bicycle (13,42%) and low-educated rural elderly with a car and a bicycle (18,51%).
Not all of those surveyed can be considered ‘transport deficient‘. For example, the mainly highly educated respondents in the mobile elderly group have access to a car and bicycle but are likely to choose not to travel that much.
A well-functioning social network is of great importance here. Without such a network, social exclusion increases and creates a reinforcing and vicious effect. Almost 20% of the respondents indicated that they have difficulty asking their family, friends, acquaintances, or neighbors for help.
But in general, it can be said that someone unemployed or retired is more likely to suffer from transport poverty. On the one hand, this can be explained by their lower-income, and on the other hand, because they cannot benefit (anymore) from mobility solutions offered by their employer.
As a general policy measure, the researchers propose better-aligned mobility and a well-functioning public transport system. Three out of ten respondents indicated that they depend on public transport to get around.
In the Covid-19 pandemic context, one in five cannot buy (quality) food without using public transport. Moreover, one in three is more dependent on others if they cannot use public transport.
Mobility measures and spatial planning should also be better coordinated. The solution is not necessarily to offer more mobility but also to provide basic functions in residential areas. Policy measures are also best evaluated for the five different profiles. For example, free or cheap public transport is not a solution if the offer does not meet the mobility demand.
Digital skills and access to digital information also play a big role in reducing transport poverty, just as the bicycle can counter the problem. The researchers note that as many as 16% cannot cycle, 30% do not even own a bicycle.
This clearly puts a brake on smoother and more qualitative mobility. Important, however: half of the respondents do not consider their environment bicycle-friendly.