Accessible space? Urban youths’ needs and barriers in everyday life
A qualitative study in Brunnsbo, Gothenburg, Sweden
In the light of new sustainability challenges in cities brought forward by increasing urban populations, the realm of urban transportation research has gradually digressed from planning for accessibility by mobility to instead emphasise the benefits of accessibility by proximity. This shift brings with it a possibility to elucidate and expand knowledge on population groups that previously have been neglected in earlier planning processes. One of these population groups are youths; not yet adults but with greater needs on independence in terms of accessibility than children. Consequently, youths as a population group in relation to accessibility have been researched in this thesis with the aim to examine their accessibility needs, practices and barriers thereof. The thesis focuses empirically on youths living in the urban area of Brunnsbo in Gothenburg, Sweden which is done through the employment of two qualitative methods; activity diaries and semi-structured interviews. 14 youths between the ages of 12 and 16 recorded their spatial movements in activity diaries and were subsequently interviewed about their accessibility. The thesis found that youths’ accessibility practices to a great degree are characterised by proximity; many of the youths live stationary lifestyles and seldom leave their home area. These practices enabled the youths to exercise much of their accessibility through slow modes of transport such as walking. However, it was also found that the youths were routine users of public transport, even for very short distances. That proximity is central to youths’ accessibility practices also means that needs and practices in relation to youth accessibility to a great degree conform; many of the most common destinations frequented by the youths were related to social needs and are located in Brunnsbo or within its vicinities. However, the youths experience a range of barriers that hinder or alter their accessibility needs and practices. They vary from being constituted by parental constraints and traffic to perceptions of fear of people and places as well as feelings of being observed by others. These barriers especially affect girls’ accessibility, adding a gendered dimension to barriers of youth accessibility. The results of the thesis demonstrate that youth accessibility needs and practices to some degrees conform to the planning for accessibility by proximity shift, in that youth accessibility is largely governed by proximity.