Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Factors influencing mode of transport in older adolescents: a qualitative study

Dorien Simons123*, Peter Clarys1, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij2, Bas de Geus4, Corneel Vandelanotte5 and Benedicte Deforche12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Human Biometry and Biomechanics, Faculty of Physical Education and Physical Therapy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, Brussels, B, 1050, Belgium

2 Department of Movement and Sport Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Watersportlaan 2, Ghent, B, 9000, Belgium

3 Fund for Scientific Research Flanders Belgium, Egmontstraat 5, Brussels, B, 1000, Belgium

4 Department of Human Physiology and Sportsmedicine, Faculty of Physical Education and Physical Therapy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, Brussels, B, 1050, Belgium

5 Institute for Health and Social Science Research, Centre for Physical Activity Studies, Central Queensland University, Bruce Highway, Rockhampton, QLD 4702, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:323  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-323

Published: 10 April 2013



Since a decline in activity levels occurs in adolescence, active transport could be important to increase daily physical activity in older adolescents (17–18 years). To promote active transport, it is necessary to be aware of the barriers and facilitators of this type of transport, but also of other transport modes. This study sought to uncover the factors influencing the choice of transport mode for short distance travel to various destinations in older adolescents using focus groups.


Thirty-two focus group volunteers (mean age of 17 ± 1.2 years) were recruited from the two final years of the secondary school in Antwerp (Belgium). Five focus groups were conducted (five to eight participants/group). Content analysis was performed using NVivo 9 software (QSR International). Grounded theory was used to derive categories and subcategories.


Data were categorized in three main themes with several subcategories: personal factors (high autonomy, low costs and health), social factors (good social support) and physical environmental factors (short travel time, good access to transport modes and to facilities, good weather, an adapted built environment, perceived safety and ecology).


For older adolescents, the interplay between short travel time, high autonomy, good social support, low costs, good access to transport modes and facilities, and good weather was important for choosing active transport over other transport forms for travelling short distances to various destinations. Other well-known factors such as safety, ecology and health seemed not to have a big influence on their transport mode choice.

Active transport; Motorized transport; Youth; Focus groups; Transport choice