School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences

Paul Tranter

Associate Professor Paul Tranter

BA (Hons) N'cle, PhD N'cle


Telephone: +61 2 6268 8310
Fax:+61 2 6268 8017
Location: PEMS North, Room 337

My UNSW Research Gateway Profile

Geographical Research

Human Geographer

Research Interests:
Social and transport geography, sustainable transport, children's mobility patterns, use of public spaces.


Associate Professor Paul Tranter is a Geographer in the School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences (PEMS) at UNSW Canberra (the Australian Defence Force Academy) in Canberra. Here he lectures in global change, social geography and transport geography, and has been the recipient of three teaching awards. His research has made a pioneering contribution in the areas of child-friendly environments, active transport, and healthy and sustainable cities. These themes are brought together in a recent book Children and Their Urban Environment: Changing Worlds, which Paul co-authored with Claire Freeman.

As well as his position in Geography, Paul is also the Coordinator of Learning and Teaching Development (PEMS/SEIT) at UNSW Canberra. (SEIT is the School of Engineering and Information Technology). Over the last few years he has been the Presiding Member of the Teaching and Learning Committee, Convenor of the ADFA Human Research Ethics Advisory Committee, Undergraduate Education Coordinator (PEMS), and Geography Discipline Coordinator.


Paul has forged new areas of research by combining hitherto unlinked research topics (e.g. children’s rights and peak oil), or by applying innovative concepts to urban transport (e.g. “effective speed”, a concept that considers the total time costs associated with any mode of transport). His current research projects include the following.

iMATCH: Independent mobility, active travel and children's health.

Funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant 2010-2013
Policy interventions are used across Australia to improve children's independent mobility, to increase children's physical activity levels and social interaction, and to generate more sustainable travel behaviour, particularly for the journey to school. iMATCH provides a holistic and inter-disciplinary evaluation of policy interventions than is undertaken for most evaluations of school travel and children's travel behaviour policies and programs. By controlling for the influence of the built and social environment, the project will provide the necessary support to justify these policy interventions and to identify key improvements for their delivery, supporting more sustainable and healthy lifestyles for Australia's children.

CATCH: Children’s Active Travel, Connectedness and Health.

Funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant 2010-2013.
The evidence base supporting relationships between the built and social environments, independent mobility and active travel in child populations is greatly lacking. The CATCH project is a multi-environment study of children in six locations across Australia representative of the locations where most Australian children reside: two inner suburbs, two middle suburbs, one master planned community and one regional city. Children in each neighbourhood will keep travel diaries, wear global positioning systems and accelerometers/heart rate monitors, and participate in photo mapping exercises. Each neighbourhood will also be audited to understand its built and social environment. In this way, differences across the sites in the children’s independent mobility and active travel can be explored in greater detail, examining how the children travel, where they go, how this differs by neighbourhood type, and the built and social environment influences that are most important. The research should point the way to effective responses to increase children’s independent mobility in Australia’s urban landscapes.

The Sydney Playground Project: Funded by National Health and Medical Research Council and Australian Research Council Discovery Grants
The Sydney Playground Project is a multidisciplinary research project, based upon play and the many benefits associated with outdoor, non structured play. The project aims to increase children's physical activity, social skills and resilience through a simple, low cost intervention that is carried out on the school playground. Part One of the intervention consists of a variety of loose materials with no apparent play purpose, being placed on the school playground. Examples of these materials include: car tyres, milk crates, bread crates, buckets, crash mats, conduit piping, and pool noodles. Part Two of the intervention consists of a workshop session with parents and teachers to discuss play and risks associated with this.

Peak Oil and Children
For several years Paul has been collaborating with Dr Scott Sharpe on research that investigates how the challenge of peak oil might provide opportunities for making cities more child friendly. Publications relating to this include a 2012 paper in the Journal of Transport Geography that examines the use of Disney movies as a way of stimulating behaviour change toward more child friendly environments that will also be more resilient in terms of peak oil.

Holistic Approaches to Road Safety
Funded by the NRMA ACT Road Safety Trust
This project, working with Dr Murray May and Dr James Warn (UNSW Canberra) examines the links between strategies that address road safety objectives, and strategies that improve health and environmental challenges. The research findings have been published in two papers in the Journal of Transport Geography see details below under “Select Publications”.

Effective speed: The Speed Paradox
This research, originally funded by the Australian Greenhouse Office, examines the full time costs associated with different modes of transport. By examining speed in a holistic way, it can be demonstrated that in most cases, bicycles are a ‘faster’ mode of transport than cars, and that attempts to save time by increasing speed are futile. This speed paradox is examined in a chapter in a new book edited by John Pucher and Ralph Buehler City Cycling.
Paul is currently researching the responses of young people (pre-driving age) to the effective speed concept.

Paul Tranter cycling ACT

Assoc. Prof. Paul Tranter - a keen cyclist.


Paul's teaching is mainly within the field of human geography, particularly Global Change, Social Geography and Transport Geography. In 2012 he was the coordinator of the first year course: Introduction to Global Change. This course takes a broad view of global change, and examines topics including Energy and Resources (which included the theme of peak oil), Climate, Population and Mobility, and Responses to Global Challenges. In this course, Paul aims to use the theme of global change to develop within students a geographic imagination, which allows them to more fully appreciate the interconnectedness of the topic they examine. During his time at UNSW, he has been the recipient of three teaching awards.

Academic Awards

* University Medal from University of Newcastle (1976)
* University College Teaching Excellence Award (1992)
* Vice-Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence (1997)
* Rector's Commendation for Excellence in Classroom Teaching (2006)

Select Publications

  1. Tranter, P.J., 2012, Effective speed: Cycling because it's faster, in: City Cycling, John Pucher & Ralph Buehler (eds), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 57-74.
  2. Wyver, S., Tranter, P., Bundy, A. & Naughton, G., 2012, Changing contexts of play: Losses and opportunities, in: Children, Families and Communities: Contexts and Consequences, 4th edn, J. Bowes, R. Grace & K. Hodge (eds), Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, pp. 162-175.
  3. Wyver, S., Tranter, P.J., Sandseter, E.B.H., Naughton, G., Little, H., Bundy, A., Ragen, J. & Engelen, L., 2012, Places to play outdoors: Sedentary and safe or active and risky, in: Children and Childhoods 1: Perspectives, Places and Practices, Peter Whiteman & Katey De Gioia (eds), Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, pp. 85-107.
  4. Tranter, P. and Sharpe, S. 2012, Disney-Pixar to the rescue: harnessing positive affect for enhancing children's active mobility, Journal of Transport Geography, 20(1), 34-40, doi: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2011.04.006.
  5. Tranter, P.J., Bundy, A., Engelen, L., Wyver, S., Naughton, G.A., Niehues, A. & Ragen, J., 2012, Taking a risk with playful places for children: Removing 'surplus safety' from the school ground, in: Integrating Research and Practice Proceedings, Child Friendly Cities Conference, 1-2 May
    2012, La Trobe University, Bendigo, Victoria,
  6. Freeman, C. & Tranter, P., 2011, Children and their Urban Environment: Changing Worlds, Earthscan, London, 265 pp, ISBN 9781844078530.
  7. Bundy, A., Naughton, G., Tranter, P.J., Wyver, S., Baur, L., Schiller, W., Bauman, A., Engelen, L., Ragen, J., Luckett, T., Niehues, A., Stewart, G., Jessup, G. & Brentnall, G., 2011, The Sydney playground project: Popping the bubblewrap - unleashing the power of play: A cluster randomized controlled trial of a primary school playground-based intervention aiming to increase children's physical activity and social skills, BMC
    Public Health
    , 11(680), 1-9, doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-11-680.
  8. May, M., Tranter, P.J. & Warn, J.R., 2011, Progressing road safety through deep change and transformational leadership, Journal of Transport Geography,19(6),1423-1430,
  9. Cook, A., Babb, C, Whitzman, C & Tranter, P.J., 2011, Developing visual research tools to 'do planning' with children: 10 lessons from a methodological review, in: State of Australian Cities National Conference, Australian Sustainable Cities and Regions Network (ASCRN), presented at 5th State of Australian Cities Conference 2011, Melbourne, 29 November-2 December 2011.
  10. Sharpe, S . & Tranter, P., 2010, The hope for oil crisis: Children, oil vulnerability and (in)dependent mobility, Australian Planner, 47(4), 284-292,
  11. Wyver, S., Tranter, P., Naughton, G., Little, H., Sandseter, EBH., & Bundy, A. 2010, Ten ways to restrict children's freedom play: The problem of surplus safety, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 11(3),263-277.
  12. Tranter, P. J., 2010, Speed kills: The complex links between transport, lack of time and urban health, Journal of Urban Health, 87(2), 155-165. doi:10.1007/s11524-009-9433-9
  13. Whitzman, C., Romero, V., Duncan, M., Curtis, C., Tranter, P. & Burke, M., 2010, Links between children's independent mobility, active transport, physical activity and obesity, in Preventing Childhood Obesity: Evidence, Policy, and Practice, E. Waters, B. Swinburn, R. Uauy, J. Seidell (eds), Wiley Blackwell, pp. 105-112.
  14. May, M., Tranter, P. and Warn, J ., 2010, Climate change, peak oil and road safety: Finding synergisms to challenge the dominance of speed, 33rd Australasian Transport Research Forum Proceedings, 29 September to 1 October, Canberra.
  15. May, M., Tranter, P.J., & Warn, J.R. 2010, Holistic road safety report released, Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety , 21(4),49-52.
  16. May, M. Tranter, P. and Warn, J., 2010, Towards a Holistic Framework for Road Safety, Report for the NRMA ACT Road Safety Trust, School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy . Available =
  17. O`Brien, C., & Tranter, P.J. 2010, Positive psychology, walking and well-being: Can walking school buses survive a policy of school closures?', World Transport Policy and Practice, 15, 42-54.
  18. Tranter, P.J. & Lowes, M., 2009, The crucial ‘where’ of motorsport marketing: is motorsport now “a race out of place” International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, 11(1), 60-79.
  19. Bundy, A. C., Tranter, P.J., Naughton, G. A., Wyver, Shirley R.& Luckett, T., 2009, Playfullness: Interactions between play contexts and child development, In J. Bowes & R. Grace (eds), Children Families and Communities: Contexts and Consequences, Third Edition, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Chapter 5, pp. 76-88.
  20. Tranter, P.J. & Lowes, M., 2009, Life in the fast lane: Environment, economic and public health outcomes of motorsport spectacles in Australia, Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 33(2), 150-168.
  21. Bundy, A., Luckett, T., Tranter, P.J., Naughton, G., Wyver, S., Ragen, J.A. & Spies, G., 2009, The risk that there is ‘no risk’: a simple, innovative intervention to increase children’s activity levels, International Journal of Early Years Education, 17(1), 33-45.
  22. Tranter, P., Malone K., 2008, Out of bounds: insights from Australian children to support sustainable cities, Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice, 21(4), 20-26.
  23. Bundy, A., Tranter, P., Luckett, T., Naughton, G., Wyver, S., Spies & Ragen, J. A., 2008, Playful interaction: Occupational therapy for 'all' children on the playground, American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 62(5), 522-7.
  24. May, M., Tranter, P. J. & Warn, J., 2008, Towards a holistic framework for road safety in Australia, Journal of Transport Geography, 16(6), 395-405.
  25. Tranter, P. & Warn, J., 2008, Relationships between interest in motor racing and driver attitudes and behaviour amongst mature drivers: An Australian case study, Accident Analysis & Prevention, 40(5), 1683-1689.
  26. Tranter, P. & Sharpe, S., 2008, Escaping monstropolis: Child-friendly cities, peak oil and Monsters Inc., Children's Geographies, 6(3), 295-308, ISSN:1473-3277.
  27. Tranter, P. J. & Sharpe, S., 2007, Children and peak oil: an opportunity in crisis, International Journal of Children's Rights, 15(1), 181-197.
  28. Tranter, P. & Ker, I., 2007, A wish called $quander: (In)effective speed and effective wellbeing in Australian cities, Proceedings of the State of Australian Cities 2007 National Conference, 28-30 Nov 2007, University of South Australia and Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia, pp. 1045-1055.  
    Available at:
  29. Warn, J. & Tranter, P., 2007, Selecting and educating future leaders for a world of complexity, International Military Testing Association Conference.  Available at:
  30. Tranter, P., 2006, Overcoming social traps: A key to creating child friendly cities. Chapter 8 in B. Gleeson & N. Sipe (Eds.), Creating Child Friendly Cities: Reinstating Kids in the City, pp. 121-135, Routledge, New York.
  31. Tranter, P. J., & Lowes, M. D., 2006, Communicating urban values through motorsport events: The case of Australia 's "High Performance" cities. Chapter 8 in T. Gibson & M. D. Lowes (Eds.), Urban Communication: Production, Text, Context, pp. 165-176, Roman and Littlefield Publishers Inc., New York.
  32. Tranter, P. & May, M., 2006, The hidden benefits of walking: is speed stealing our time and money, Walk 21: 7th International Conference on Walking and Livable Communities, Melbourne, 23-25 October. 
    Available at:
  33. O'Brien, C. & Tranter, P., 2006, Planning for and with Children and Youth: insights from children about happiness, well-being and walking, Walk 21: 7th International Conference on Walking and Livable Communities, Melbourne, 23-25 October. 
    Available at:
  34. Tranter, P. J. & Lowes, M. D., 2005, The place of motorsport in public health: an Australian perspective, Health and Place, 11, 379-391.
  35. Malone, K. & Tranter, P., 2005,“Hanging out in the schoolground”: A reflective look at researching children's environmental learning, Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 10, 212-224.
  36. Tranter, P. & May, M., 2005, Questioning the need for speed: Can effective speed guide change in travel behaviour and transport policy?, Proceedings of the 28th Australasian Transport Research Forum, 28-30 September, Sydney.
  37. Tranter, P. J. & May, M., 2005, Using the concept of effective speed as a stimulus for travel behaviour change and policy development , A Report for the Australian Greenhouse Office, Department of Environment and Heritage, Australia, ISBN: 1 921 12011 8.  Available at:
  38. Warn, J., Tranter P. J. & Kingham, S., 2004, Fast and furious 3: Illegal street racing, sensation seeking and risky driving behaviours in New Zealand, 27th Australasian Transport Research Forum, 29 Sept to 1 Oct, Adelaide.
  39. Tranter, P. J., 2004, Effective speeds: Car costs are slowing Us down, A report for the Australian Greenhouse Office, Department of the Environment and Heritage, ISBN: 1 9208 40 62 1.
    Available at:

Recent Grants



· Member of the Institute of Australian Geographers.
· Member of the Editorial Board for the Journal: World Transport Policy and Practice (1995 - present)
· Member of the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA)