Free bus travel for teens curbs road traffic injuries and benefits environment

Free bus travel for teens helps curb road traffic injuries and benefits the environment, reveal the results of an analysis of the free bus scheme in London, published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

But it also seems to boost the number of short journeys taken by bus, which might otherwise have been cycled or walked, the findings show.

The researchers wanted to assess the public health impact of giving teens in London free bus travel. The scheme was introduced for 12 to 16 year olds in 2005, and for 17 year olds in 2006.

They therefore used data from the London Area Transport Survey and London Travel Demand Surveys to calculate the number of journeys made in London—as well as distance and principal mode of travel—before (2001-4) and after (2005-9) the scheme was introduced.

And they looked at official data on and to see if the scheme had any noticeable effects on personal safety.

The analysis showed that the proportion of short journeys teens took by bus doubled from 2% to 5%, although the overall number of journeys they took did not increase.

The number of short trips walked also fell in tandem with an increase in this length of journey taken by bus, although there was no appreciable impact on total distance walked.

But there was clear evidence of a fall in the number of short journeys cycled and in distances cycled by , although this mode of travel was not hugely popular among this age group before the introduction of the scheme.

Rates of casualties had started falling before the introduction of the scheme, and continued to fall afterwards, but at a greater rate in young people, largely among passengers and cyclists. Pedestrian casualty rates remained the same.

for assaults had been rising among teens before 2005, but were higher among this age group after the scheme's introduction.

The number of daily car journeys taken by young people and adults fell, and the average distance travelled by car also shrank, suggesting that free bus travel prompts a shift away from car use and may therefore be a greener option.

There didn't seem to be any fall in the use of buses by older people after the scheme's introduction either.

"The findings suggest, unsurprisingly, a good uptake in use of buses for fulfilling travel needs, including for short journeys," write the authors.

"One disadvantage appears to be some reduction in the proportion of short trips by walking, and in the (already) low level of cycling; these might be detrimental to the establishment of future travel habits bringing regular physical activity," they suggest.

"On the other hand, the increase in the use of public transport may help to establish travel behaviour for later life that entails some physical activity, as well as helping to reduce car use," they say.

More information: www.jech.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10… 136/jech-2012-202156

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Reducing car use is the key to better health

Dec 23, 2011

With just 39 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women reaching the Department of Health’s recommended level of health-enhancing physical activity, the answer to the UK’s growing obesity problem could ...

Recommended for you

AMA 'Code of Ethics' offers guidance for physicians

1 hour ago

(HealthDay)—The American Medical Association (AMA) Code of Ethics and other articles provide guidance for physicians in relation to public health emergencies, according to a report from the AMA.

Pot-infused edibles: One toke over the line in Colorado?

5 hours ago

Marijuana shops have sprouted across Denver ever since Colorado legalized the drug for adults in January, but the popularity of pot-infused edibles has surprised authorities, and parents are seeking a ban ahead of Halloween.

US sues Gerber over claims on infant formula

7 hours ago

U.S. government regulators announced Thursday they were suing Gerber, the well-known baby food maker, for claiming that its Good Start Gentle formula can prevent or reduce allergies in children.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.