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OP87 Exploring gendered active travel by pooling and synthesising qualitative studies
  1. E Haynes1,
  2. J Green2,
  3. R Garside1,
  4. MP Kelly3,
  5. C Guell1
  1. 1European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter Medical School, Truro, UK
  2. 2School of Population Health and Environmental Sciences, King’s College London, London, UK
  3. 3Cambridge Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK


Background Encouraging incidental physical activity is an important strategy to improve population health. Recent research has drawn on social practice theory to describe the recursive and relational character of active living, which could help to understand conditions for change. A growing evidence base suggests that gender should be considered amongst these conditions as an independent influence on travel behaviour, and qualitative studies have been particularly valuable to understand differential experiences. Our aim was to upscale insights from individual contexts, by synthesising data from primary qualitative research studies, to explore gendered patterns within active travel practices.

Methods We pooled 280 transcripts from five research projects conducted in the UK, including a range of populations, travel modes and settings. All data included gender descriptors, but most studies did not set out to study gender specifically. Text analytics software, Leximancer, was used in the first phase of the analysis to produce inter-topic distance maps to illustrate inter-related ‘concepts’. These maps guided a second researcher-led interpretive analysis of text excerpts to infer meaning from the computer-generated outputs, whilst maintaining sight of the explanatory strength of qualitative data and its social theoretical framing or original context.

Results Our interpretative findings indicate gender differentiated experiences and travel narratives. Firstly, focusing particularly on respondents’ commutes (travelling to and from work), and guided by social practice theory, we identified ‘interrelated’ and ‘relating’ practices across the pooled datasets. Women largely spoke about how their journeys associated with their commute were ‘bundled together’ as a series of multifunctional trips that included the school run or shopping, whereas men described relatively linear journeys from A to B but highlighted ‘relating’ practices to their journeys, such as showering after cycling to work. Secondly, we identified a gendered difference in the way men and women spoke about travel practices across contexts, particularly with reference to safety or danger. Women spoke more about themselves as actors in travel, how they are identified and their internal feelings of safety (‘I feel unsafe’), and men’s talk was more outwardly framed, and in terms of danger spoke about external conditions (‘it is a dangerous road’).

Conclusion Our research highlights gender differential experiences and accounts of travel experience. These findings can inform future research and policy decisions that aim to promote healthier travel practices, by emphasising the need to consider how gender (and other social positions) might shape practices and accounts of those practices.

  • Active travel
  • gender
  • qualitative synthesis

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