R.N. Fries, E.J. Sykut, H. Zhou
Actively commuting to school gives children the opportunity to explore nature, get exercise, and develop cognitive skills. Today though, few children in the United States (US) are able or given the opportunity to travel to and from school by their own power. Although walking or biking to school was customary 30 years ago, many of today’s children are driven to school regardless of the distance. Understanding the barriers that prevent parents from allowing their children to commute to school actively is the first step in encouraging more children to travel by their own power. This study looked at the barriers parents of school children in Illinois, US, reported in the National Safe Routes to School Parent Surveys. The findings indicated that the top barriers for urban and suburban children both included intersection safety and traffic speed/volume, however; distance from school affected suburban students more than urban students. Analysis of parent responses revealed the strongest correlation between speed and volume barriers (r=0.48). With these barriers identified, the Safe Routes to School Programs in Illinois can target their resources effectively to encourage children and their parents to consider walking and biking alternatives for trips to and from school.
Keywords: safe routes to school; active commuting; traffic speed; intersection safety