Exploring the relationship between the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in travel behaviour: A qualitative study

Yilin YANG, Mengqiu CAO*, Long CHENG, Keyu ZHAI, Xu ZHAO, Jonas DE VOS

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


During the COVID-19 crisis, a series of measures were taken to restrict travel and social activities outside the home in order to curb the pandemic and ameliorate its negative effects. These unprecedented measures have had a profound impact on the number and purposes of trips and modes of travel. In China, although the pandemic is now generally under control and transport availability has returned to nearly normal, the extent of the changes in travel behaviour wrought during and after the pandemic still remains unclear. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to investigate the differences in individual travel behaviours during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, using Huzhou as an example. Semi-structured interviews were used to examine the influence of COVID-19 on the travel behaviour and perceptions of different groups. The results indicate that, initially, travel demand was greatly reduced. Second, decreased travel reduced participation in activities, which can have adverse effects on people's health as well as their subjective well-being. Third, the degree and duration of such impacts varied from person to person. Students, lower income cohorts, groups living in small communities with insufficient green spaces, and those working in tourism, catering, informal businesses and transport-related sectors were more vulnerable than others. Policymakers, urban and transport planners should therefore pay attention to the social inequities that arise from unequal access to transport and heterogeneity between individuals. Additionally, public transport systems require further development to promote social cohesion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100450
Number of pages13
JournalTransportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives
Early online date19 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to thank the editor-in-chief Professor Karl Kim and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on the initial draft of this paper. This research is funded by the NSFC (Project No. 51808392), the EPSRC (EPSRC Reference: EP/R035148/1), the SCUE Research Fund, and School Funding from the University of Westminster.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s)


  • COVID-19
  • Social equity
  • Transport and health
  • Transport planning
  • Travel behaviour
  • Well-being


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