A survey of parents of elementary schoolchildren in Austin, Texas reveals a 15-minute walk to school, accompanied by an adult, appears to be acceptable, as long as children do not need to travel through high-traffic or unsafe areas. This survey is part of a supplement to the Journal of Public Health Policy reporting on the 2008 Active Living Research Conference.
As the rate of children's obesity has risen, the percentage of U.S. students who walk or bike to school has dropped from 41 percent in 1969 to just 13 percent in 2001. Despite this, little is known about why some kids walk to school and others do not. In this study, parents of 2,695 students from 19 elementary schools in central and suburban Austin, Texas reflecting a full range of sociodemographics, filled out questionnaires regarding how their children get to and from school.
This study has many policy implications, including raising questions about how schools are located and attendance areas determined. Although current policies encourage school consolidation and building new larger schools on big parcels of land outside of central development, renovating an existing neighborhood school may allow more kids to have safer, shorter walks to and from school. Improving walking route safety more directly through better sidewalks, road crossings and traffic slowing also should be a priority.