Walking can be a healthy, sustainable, and equitable mode of transportation, but is not widely used for children’s school travel. This study identifies multi-level correlates of walking to/from school and relevant policy implications. We surveyed parents/guardians of 2,695 students from 19 elementary schools in Austin, Texas, which featured diverse sociodemographic and environmental characteristics. Among the personal and social factors, negative correlates were parents’ education, car ownership, personal barriers, and school bus availability; positive correlates were parents’ and children's positive attitude and regular walking behavior, and supportive peer influences. Of physical environmental factors, the strongest negative correlates were distance and safety concerns, followed by the presence of highways/freeways, convenience stores, office buildings, and bus stops en route. Our findings suggest that society should give high priority to lower socioeconomic status populations and to multi-agency policy interventions that facilitate environmental changes, safety improvements, and educational programs targeting both parents and children.
walking school environment children disparity policy
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The authors acknowledge Chris Moore and other personnel in the city of Austin, Texas and the Austin Independent School District for their help with the survey. Preparation of this study was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Active Living Research Program.
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