Exploring Independent Mobility Disparities for Belgian Adolescents: Gender Differences in Autonomy and Daily Travel


  • Kandice Fults Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research
  • Kobe Boussauw Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research, Vrije Universiteit Brussel


gender, independent mobility, travel behavior, Active travel




Research in childhood and adolescent independent mobility has shown repeatedly, and in diverse locations, that there is a significant gender gap in independent agency; female children and adolescents are given less independent agency than their male counterparts (Ghekiere et al. 2017; Brown et al. 2008). Previous analyses of children’s travel in Belgium show that young teenagers shift a large portion of their daily travel from automobile travel to non-automobile travel at around 12 years old, with no statistically significant influence by gender (Fults, et al. 2023). Interestingly, it was simultaneously found that this shift to non-automobile trips presents a significant gender gap when segmenting the non-automobile trips as independent or accompanied trips. Male youth have a much higher rate of independent travel compared to female youth, even as they both shift to non-automobile-based travel at a similar rate.

This paper will present a more nuanced analysis of this observation.  Utilizing the same most-recent and most-comprehensive national travel data set in Belgium, this paper will present analyses specifically aimed at answering with whom female Belgian teenagers are traveling and what is the purpose of both accompanied and independent trips. Given the documented shift from automobile to non-automobile daily travel for teenagers, this paper will also identify, on a disaggregated level, to which modes teenagers are shifting. The results of these analyses will allow for a more critical discussion on the gender gap in independent mobility for Belgian teenagers.


Brown, B., R. Mackett, Y. Gong, K. Kitazawa, and J. Paskins. (2008) ‘Gender differences in children’s pathways to independent mobility.’ Children’s Geographies 6(4): 385-401.

Fults K., K. Boussauw, K. Fransen. (2023) ‘An exploration into the levels of automobile usage and independent mobility for children in Belgium.’ Manuscript submitted for publication.

Ghekiere, A., B. Deforche, A. Carver, et al. (2017) “Insights into children’s independent mobility for transportation cycling: Which socio-ecological factors matter?” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 20(3): 267.