UWE Bristol survey reveals changing habits of public during lockdown

Media Relations Team, 25 November 2020

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Close up of someone's legs, wearing sports leggings and trainers, walking in a park.

A survey carried out by researchers within UWE Bristol’s Centres for Sustainable Planning and Environments, and Public Health and Wellbeing, has revealed changes in the way people are interacting with the region’s parks and green spaces following the first UK lockdown in March.

The survey was carried out between May and July 2020 in collaboration with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) to learn more about the public’s changing habits and relationship with local parks and green spaces. Six hundred and thirty-one people from the West of England took part in the survey, including students and staff from UWE Bristol.

Some of the most interesting findings from the survey’s preliminary data analysis include:

  • People are visiting green spaces more frequently than they were before lockdown. For example, 49% of respondents said that they visited green spaces daily or several times a week before lockdown- this increased to 75% of respondents after lockdown.
  • The most popular factors in people’s decision to visit a particular green space were 1) Being close to home 2) Within walking distance 3) The amount and quality of the open space 4) The presence of trees
  • One factor in people’s decision to visit a particular space which increased during lockdown was the ability to avoid people, while the quality of the green space appeared less important during lockdown
  • Moderate-intensity physical activity such as brisk walking increased during lockdown while there was a slight decrease in walking and cycling for travel.

The survey also asked questions relating to the use of the home and how this may have changed during lockdown. Interestingly, while 70% of respondents said that their home was being used for work or study during lockdown, almost half of respondents (48%) indicated that they did not have a space for home working before lockdown, and of these, 47% were not able to convert a space in their homes.

The survey also found that relationships with neighbours seemed to have improved during lockdown with 62% of respondents saying they felt they had a better relationship with their neighbours.

West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles, said: “In the last few months, I think we have all appreciated the ability to get outside a little more, and this research puts some evidence behind that which we can use when making plans for the future. We have already published our Joint Green Infrastructure Strategy for the region and this will build on that strategy for the future to help us tackle the climate emergency.

“The findings also demonstrate how important it is that we have quality homes that meet modern needs, giving people the ability to work from home effectively and just as importantly to appreciate outside space and nature, which is something else I am keen that we build in to our future work as a Combined Authority.”

The survey results will be used by the Combined Authority, local authorities and others to inform planning policy, particularly in the delivery of local green spaces (e.g. parks and nature reserves).

UWE Bristol Researcher, Issy Bray, said: ‘‘Thank you to everyone who took part in the survey. Our next step is to carry out a more in-depth analysis of the results as there are many potential questions to be answered. For example, how does someone’s experience differ if you have children, if you are retired or if you lose your job? Or do people spend more time exercising because they are no longer commuting? The two lockdowns in England have increased people’s awareness of the importance of their neighbourhoods, the facilities they have and our ability to socially distance while walking and exercising so now is the perfect time to explore exactly how communal green spaces are used and how we can improve them in the future.’’

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