Rates of walking and bicycling to school have declined sharply in recent decades, and federal and state governments have committed funds to reverse these trends. To increase walking and biking to school will require understanding why many parents choose to drive their children to school and how well existing programs, like Safe Routes to School, work.
- The study aimed to understand why many parents choose to drive their children even short distances to school, and what implications this has for programs to increase walking and biking to school.
- The authors used data from a telephone survey to explore why parents drive their children to school.
- The study found that 75% of parents driving their children less than 2 miles to school said they did this for convenience and to save time. Nearly half of parents driving their children less than 2 miles did not allow their child to walk to school without adult supervision. Accompanying a child on a walk to school greatly increases the time the household devotes to such a trip. Few Safe Routes to School programs effectively address issues of parental convenience and time constraints.
- Safe Routes to School programs should take parental convenience and time constraints into account by providing ways children can walk to school supervised by someone other than the parent, such as by using walking school buses. To be effective, such programs need institutional support. Schools should take a multimodal approach to pupil transportation.
McDonald, N.C. & Aalborg, A.E. (2009). Why Parents Drive Children to School: Implications for Safe Routes to School Programs. Journal of the American Planning Association75(3), 331-342.