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.
- Around 30 percent of students walk to/from school. Slightly more walk home from school than to school.
- An adult accompanies students walking to/from school 75 percent of the time.
- Over 75 percent of walking trips to/from school take less than 15 minutes. Less than 3 percent walk if their trip is more than 30 minutes.
- Children are less likely to walk if their parents are better educated; their family owns a car; a school bus is available; or the walking route to school is perceived as unsafe.
- By contrast to findings in studies of adult walking, children were less likely to walk if they needed to pass convenience stores, office buildings and bus stops, perhaps because of the surrounding automobile activity. Highways also were barriers to walking.
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.
- 1. Factors Associated with Federal Transportation Funding for Local Pedestrian and Bicycle Programming and Facilities
- 2. Transit and Health: Mode of Transport, Employer-Sponsored Public Transit Pass Programs, and Physical Activity
- 3. Effect of Innovative Building Design on Physical Activity
- 4. Arkansas Act 1220 of 2003 to Reduce Childhood Obesity
- 5. Early Impact of the Federally Mandated Local Wellness Policy on Physical Activity in Rural, Low-Income Elementary Schools in Colorado
- 6. Preventing Childhood Obesity through State Policy
- 7. Correlates of Walking to School and Implications for Public Policies
- 8. Sociodemographic, Family, and Environmental Factors Associated with Active Commuting to School Among US Adolescents
- 9. Implementation of Texas Senate Bill 19 to Increase Physical Activity in Elementary Schools
- 10. Disparities in Urban Neighborhood Conditions
- 11. Disparities in Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviors Among US Children and Adolescents