This commuting life

David (Your Move) Wake

The trip between home and workplace was the topic for the Your Move Forum held this March. A necessary part of the daily routine for many people, the commute can be viewed as lost time or as time for yourself. The varied ways we think about and use the commute came through the stories shared at the forum.

Understanding the commute was the focus of research by human geographer David Bissell, Associate Professor at the School of Geography, University of Melbourne. He interviewed 53 commuters in Sydney to explore their thoughts and practices. At the forum David shared his findings which included:

  • The commute is often seen as stable, but it changes us including our attitudes and tolerances around interactions with each other, with space and over time.
  • Some people value their commute as time they can use to relax or be productive, whereas others feel a lack of control over this part of their day.
  • Stresses from the commute affects workplace productivity and home life. Little events people experience can build up to tipping points that prompt change.
  • Talking with people can yield deep insights and stories can be a powerful means of showing how people use their commute and how it impacts them.

Photo: At the Forum on commuting: David Wake (Your Move team), Claire Vanderplank (facilitator), David Bissell (University of Melbourne).

A long table discussion allowed forum participants to share stories about their commutes. This included tales of kindness (a stranger offering their veranda as a place to shelter from the rain), discovery (finding new ways to get around) and connection with other people and with nature.

Reflecting on the presentation and discussion, participants offered ideas for promoting active travel choices in workplaces and communities, such as:

  • Use stories to inspire and engage rather than telling people what to do.
  • Find change moments when people may be more open to rethinking their commute, like starting a new job or relocating.
  • Owning and running a car can cost the first hour of each work day; selling the second car and cycling or catching public transport can add value.
  • Provide opportunities for people to try active commuting, like Ride2School or Ride2Work days, and build on this experience.

We would love to hear about your commute or that of colleagues, especially if it highlights what active transport can offer or illustrates how and why someone changed. Post a story on the Your Move website and earn 25 points from your workplace (and the chance to win a larger prize).

For more on David Bissell’s commuter research see his book Transit Life or this report on the impacts of commuting.

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