environment. In addition, legal approaches may be useful (Perdue et al., 2003; Mensah et al., 2004).
Local governments, in partnership with private developers and community groups, should ensure that every neighborhood has safe and well-designed recreational facilities and other places for physical activity for children and youth. Communities can require such environmental characteristics in new developments and use creative approaches to retrofit existing neighborhoods. Furthermore, local governments should ensure that streets are designed to encourage safe walking, bicycling, and other physical activities within the neighborhood and the larger community. Child-safe street design includes well-maintained sidewalks, safe places for crossing, adequate bike lanes, and features that slow traffic.
Compared with 30 years ago, few students in the United States are walking or bicycling to school. In 1969, an average of 48 percent of all students walked or biked to that destination; among those living no more than a mile away, nearly 90 percent did so (EPA, 2003). In comparison, the 1999 HealthStyles Survey found that of the participating households, 19 percent reported that their children walked to or from school at least once a week in the preceding month and that 6 percent rode their bikes (CDC, 2002a). Similar results were seen in a study by the Georgia Division of Public Health, which found that fewer than 19 percent of the state’s school-aged children who lived a mile or less from school commuted by foot most days of the week (CDC, 2002b).
The HealthStyles Survey households reported that barriers to their children’s walking or bicycling to school included: long distances (noted by 55 percent of respondents), traffic-related safety concerns (40 percent), adverse weather conditions (24 percent), crime danger (18 percent), school policy (7 percent), or other reasons (26 percent) (CDC, 2002a). Sixteen percent acknowledged that there were no barriers to walking or bicycling to school.
Two other studies also identified distance as a determinant. In one small study of six school sites, respondents said that it was more likely that their children would walk or bike to school if their home was a mile or less away (McMillan, 2002), while the other found that the probability of walking or bicycling declined with travel time (EPA, 2003). The situation at present is that the majority of children arrive and leave school in automobiles, vans, trucks, and buses (Figure 6-1) (TRB, 2002). Research also suggests that parents, students, and school officials often select or encourage motorized travel because of convenience, flexibility, budget, or expectation rather than to maximize safety (TRB, 2002).