Alltagsmobilität junger Familien in der Metropole Ruhr : Mobilitätspraktiken, Mobilitätsbarrieren und mobilitätsbezogene soziale Exklusion

Suder, Eric A.; Pfaffenbach, Carmella Diana (Thesis advisor); Leicht-Scholten, Carmen (Thesis advisor)

Aachen (2020)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, 2020


Despite sustainability debates since the 1980s, the private car remains the most important mode of transportation in Germany. In addition to the ecological and economic dimensions of sustainability, the social aspect of mobility has become increasingly important in mobility research in recent years. Terms such as accessibility, participation in society and social exclusion are often discussed. In this context, the research focus often shifts to certain population groups that are particularly often affected by social exclusion. These include senior citizens, physically impaired and low-income people. This dissertation has examined the mobility practices of families with children less than ten years of age, as they use the car more often than any other population group and are particularly confronted with numerous challenges such as limited time budgets and increased expenditure due to having at least one child.This dissertation focuses on three research topics. First, the mobility practices of young families were examined. The background of transportation mode choice decisions as well as different basic conditions such as the spatial aspects are taken into account. Secondly, the social component of mobility was analysed in greater depth in the context of mobility-based challenges and social exclusion. Thirdly, the potential of sustainable family mobility was analysed. The needs for change were identified and alternative mobility options were examined for their acceptance by families.In order to better understand young families’ the mobility practices, a qualitative interview study was designed. This interview study builds the main part of the dissertation. By establishing contacts via primary schools, kindergartens and social media, a total of 40 mothers and fathers from four municipalities in the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area - from the city of Oberhausen to the small municipality of Hünxe - were interviewed in 35 interviews and 30 hours of interview material was collected. In addition to the interview study, a cross-populational questionnaire survey was carried out with 1,062 respondents as part of a master project seminar at the Geographical Institute of RWTH Aachen University. Especially on the way to/from work, mobility practices in the everyday life context of young families are strongly influenced by the use of the car. Since the majority of the interviewed families in this case study have both parents working - usually the father works full-time and the mother part-time - and often commute to work in another city, most families own two cars. Only in central residential locations with a good public transportation system, some families dispense with a second car and instead invest in a monthly public transport ticket. In everyday life, it is usually the part-time working mother who is given access to the car and does most of the care work for the children, including numerous accompanying trips. At kindergarten and primary school age, one parent usually escorts the children to the childcare facility by foot or car. In their leisure time and for shopping, depending on the family, there is either also strong car use or if possible a most widely waiver of car use. Within the frame of the dissertation, six family mobility types were identified, whose mobility practices are each based on different influencing factors and motives. The mobility types include the car-dependent (10 interviewees), the flexible individualists (6 interviewees), the car avoiders (6 interviewees), the multimodalists (4 interviewees), the automobile-fans (3 interviewees) and the non-motorised low-income families (4 interviewees). The background of mobility practices can be categorised into five groups of factors, which are of varying importance depending on the type of mobility. These include 1. socio-demographic factors (especially car availability, age of children, occupation), 2. spatial factors (especially population density, public transportation frequency), 3. journey characteristic factors (especially trip chaining, trip purpose, travel time, interchange), 4. socio-psychological factors (especially habits, familiarity with the transport mode) and 5. transport mode characteristic factors (especially flexibility, comfort, reliability).For many parents, the main challenge in everyday life is the temporal organisation including the compatibility of family and work. Particularly problematic is the adherence to the pick-up times of kindergarten and primary school, because with a maximum of 45 hours of care, there are only 30 minutes for the journey between the workplace and the childcare facility for full-time employees. However, the amount of time for commuting takes often much more time, so that as a consequence one parent permanently reduces the amount of time working.Social exclusion can be observed in families that 1. do not own a car, 2. have few financial resources and/or 3. where one parent is a single parent. Here, geographical, infrastructural, time-based and economic barriers to mobility are particularly evident, which often mean that non-compulsory journeys are no longer taken. Leisure activities of the parents and children, such as participation of the children in swimming lessons, can be mentioned as an example.In order to reduce car dependency, as described by many interviewees, and to make mobility in families’ everyday lives more sustainable and generally more family-friendly, several topics need to be addressed. Thus, all five identified groups of factors in the choice of transportation mode must be taken into account. Moreover, the various needs of the different types of mobility must not be neglected. In addition, public transportation and cycling infrastructure must be significantly improved so that they can be considered as real alternatives to the car. In this context, alternative public transportation funding should also be discussed, for example in the form of a tax- or contribution-financed citizen's ticket. Improving the compatibility of family and work is just as necessary as reducing mobility-related challenges and avoiding social exclusion in every-day life of families.


  • Fortschrittskolleg ACCESS! [080054]
  • Division of Earth Sciences and Geography [530000]
  • Cultural Geography Teaching and Research Area [551820]