‘We Can All Just Get on a Bus and Go’: Rethinking Independent Mobility in the Context of the Universal Provision of Free Bus Travel to Young Londoners

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

ridership - young people, place - europe, economics - subsidy, mode - bus


Independent mobility, Children, Adolescents, Bus, Free travel, London


This paper uses qualitative data from interviews with 118 young Londoners (age 12–18) to examine how the universal provision of free bus travel has affected young people’s independent mobility. Drawing on Sen’s capabilities approach, we argue that free bus travel enhanced young Londoners’ capabilities to shape their daily mobility, both directly by increasing financial access and indirectly by facilitating the acquisition of the necessary skills, travelling companions and confidence. These capabilities in turn extended both opportunity freedoms (e.g. facilitating non-‘necessary’ recreational and social trips) and process freedoms (e.g. feeling more independent by decreasing reliance on parents). Moreover, the universal nature of the entitlement rendered buses a socially inclusive way for groups to travel and spend time together, thereby enhancing group-level capabilities. We believe this attention to individual and group capabilities for self-determination provides the basis for a broader and more child-centred view of independent mobility than the typical research focus upon travelling without an adult and acquiring parental permissions.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Taylor&Francis, copyright remains with them.