A biographical approach to studying individual change and continuity in walking and cycling over the life course

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Most research studies seeking to understand walking and cycling behaviours have used cross-sectional data to explain inter-individual differences at a particular point in time. Investigations of individual walking and cycling over time are limited, despite the fact that insights on this could be valuable for informing policies to support life-long walking and cycling. The lack of existing longitudinal data, difficulties associated with its collection and scepticism towards retrospective methods as a means to reconstruct past behavioural developments have all contributed to this deficit in knowledge. This issue is heightened when the time frame extends to longer term periods, or the life course in its entirety. This paper proposes and details a retrospective qualitative methodology that was used to study individual change and stability in walking and cycling within a life course framework. Biographical interviews supported by a life history calendar were developed and conducted with two adult birth cohorts. Interpretive, visual biographies were produced from the interview materials. Analysis focused on identifying the occurrence, context and timing of behavioural change and stability over the life course. Typologies of behavioural development were generated to resolve common and distinct behavioural patterns over the life course. Whilst the validity of reconstructed biographies of walking and cycling cannot be proven, this is an approach which offers credible and confirmable insights on how these behaviours increase, diminish, persist, cease, are restored or adapted through the life course, and how behavioural trajectories of walking and cycling may be evolving through historical time.




Jones, H., Chatterjee, K., & Gray, S. (2014). A biographical approach to studying individual change and continuity in walking and cycling over the life course. Journal of Transport and Health, 1(3), 182–189. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jth.2014.07.004

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