Talking the walk: Understanding active travel in Ordsall

Project summary

Talking the Walk was undertaken between January and July 2017 and sought to understand the enablers and barriers towards active travel (specifically, walking and cycling) in the Ordsall area of Salford. A research approach was piloted which can be transferable to other areas. Methods included interviews, conversations, structured workshops and incorporated an ‘ethnographic’ element involving walking on routes around the area.

The findings provided an understanding of community issues which extend beyond walking and cycling, but which are also influential on the likelihood of residents to consider active travel as a realistic trip option. The research highlighted that by adding more understanding of local societal issues, it is possible to appreciate the complexity of changing travel behaviour at a community level.

The changing culture of the area, rapid regeneration and a perceived gentrification of some nearby areas were all discussed by community members in conjunction with conversations on day-to-day travel. Some shared feelings of being a closed off community may change as building developments are completed. More positively, the regular focus on discussing active travel through the time-period of the project led to a more positive outlook, with anecdotal evidence from discussions at the final workshop suggesting that residents had started to think more about changing their travel habits.

The open and honest discussions on travel, repeated over time, combined with the production of the film were important immersive elements of the research project. The fact that practitioners, residents and academic researchers came together to guide the research at each stage was a particular strength in this regard.

Understanding a community in its entirety can provide more tangible understanding of personal travel. The use of community hubs and locations was also beneficial as it built familiarity between researchers and the community. In research terms this project adds another level of understanding on engaging communities to travel actively which can be explored in future projects. In particular, this approach can be drawn from to use with communities in conjunction with new infrastructure and changes resulting from development. The next step will involve proposing larger-scale research, geographically and of longer duration.

Project outputs

Article: Talking the walk: Understanding active travel in Ordsall

Project contacts

Dr. Nick Davies, Glasgow Caledonian University