Data analysis shows that while those living in the city centres spend less time in their cars commuting, they travel more for leisure.
One popular explanation for this is that these urban dwellers are seeking nature on their time off to compensate for their largely concrete existence, something known as the barbecue effect.
The barbecue effect assumes those on the periphery with back yards and more space do less leisure travelling because nature is on their doorstep. A barbecue in the backyard is as good as a jaunt to the countryside. The corollary is that urbanites without backyards must seek a nature fix on their time off.
While the analysis found that those with backyards travel less for leisure it turns out that more travel-happy city-centre dwellers are not travelling to escape the concrete jungle. They are mostly travelling to other urban areas for their leisure and to visit friends.
The analysis done by researchers at EPFL in Lausanne looked at data on Geneva and Zurich, breaking them into three zones: the super centre, suburban, and urban periphery. Unsurprisingly, because everything they need is nearby those in the super centre move very little in a regular day, compared to those in the suburbs and periphery. However when it comes to leisure travel it is the other way around.
In Zurich super urban residents (27,000 km) travel further in a year than those in the suburbs and periphery (18,500 – 22,500 km) despite shorter commutes. In Geneva super urban residents (18,500 km) travel around the same distance in a year as those in the suburbs and periphery (14,000 – 18,800 km).
The biggest difference is the proportion of travel dedicated to leisure. Around have of super urbanite travel is leisure. Those in the suburbs and periphery dedicate only around a third of their total kilometres to leisure travel.
One hypothesis is the urbanite effect. Those who spend more time in cities become more accustomed to shared transport and use more of it including long distance trains and planes.
Being close to the airport probably helps too.