Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Safe Routes to School Travel Data Report

In its recently released report Safe Routes to School Travel Data: A Look at Baseline Results from Parent Surveys and Student Travel Tallies the National Center for Safe Routes to School summarizes two years of travel data from the national safe routes to school program. Some of the key findings:
  • Most children travel to school by car or school bus, although walking does make up a fairly significant portion of school trips (11 percent in the morning and 15 percent in the afternoon)
  • Walking peaks in fifth grade, when nearly a quarter of kids walk or bike to school, then drops when children enter middle school (possibly due to middle schools being further from home than elementary schools)
  • Distance is the biggest factor in parents' decision to allow their kids to walk to school, and makes a dramatic difference in walking rates. Over 40 percent of children who live less than a quarter-mile from school walk to school. However, the percentage of walkers drops to nine percent for children living between 1/2 and one mile from school--and to two percent or less for children who live more than a mile away from school.
  • Although distance was important, traffic speed, traffic volume, and intersection crossing safety were also major factors in whether or not parents allowed their children to walk to school. Weather also made a difference to parents, but not as much as has been shown in previous studies.

Based on this data, the National Center for Safe Routes to School suggests that in the short term safe routes to school programs focus efforts particularly on areas within a mile of schools, where many children already walk. Since safety concerns are a major reason that parents don't allow their children to walk to school, identifying strategies to lower traffic around schools, reduce traffic speeds, and provide children with safe crossings could have a strong influence on the number of kids who walk to school.

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