Some 70 percent of schoolchildren don't walk to school

Dec 03, 2008

Days when schoolchildren walked to neighbourhood schools are long gone. A new study by a team of researchers led by Paul Lewis, a professor of Urban Planning at the Université de Montréal, shows that only 30 percent of children attending elementary school reach school on foot or by bicycle.

The study was conducted from 2006 to 2008 in the central neighbourhoods and suburbs of two target regions: Montreal, the biggest metropolitan area of Quebec, and Trois-Rivières, a medium-sized city. The parents of 1495 children attending 67 schools were surveyed for this investigation.

"The primary goal of the study was to identify the obstacles to why elementary pupils do not walk and bicycle to school and aren't physical activity for the recommended 60 minutes per day," says Dr. Lewis, who conducted this study with eight colleagues from the Group de recherche Ville et mobilité (City and mobility research group).

The research team began their investigation by consulting past studies on the subject. According to Kino-Québec, in 1971, about 80 percent of Canadian children aged 7 and 8 walked to school. The Ville et mobilité study conducted in 2008 revealed that the number of children who regularly walk or bicycle to school in the morning is around 30 percent of all children in the Montreal and Trois-Rivières regions. What's more, 80 percent of those who walk to school travel less than 600 meters.

"The decrease in walking and bicycling in Western societies is the consequence of a general trend towards sedentary lifestyles," Dr. Lewis says. "This decline is explained by urban sprawl, greater distance to travel to more activities and modern schedules featuring tighter time-management."

The survey confirms the strongly dissuasive effect of home to school distance, which is due to the proliferation of special-purpose public schools and the strong presence of private schools. Indeed, attending neighbourhood schools is no longer the norm and kids travel farther for their education.

Another fundamental causes of the decline is how the majority of parents surveyed travel by car and do not set a good example for their children. "Even when the school is 300 meters away, some parents drive their children because it is on their way or they are leaving at the same time," stresses Dr. Lewis. "Parents fear for their children's safety in high urbanized environments. Safety takes precedence over health."

Although the study did not establish an action plan, the research team nonetheless has recommendations to encourage walking and bicycling by schoolchildren:

-- Education boards should promote physical activity and walking should be factored when deciding to close or open a school or when designating schools with special programs.

-- Existing urban frameworks must be radically altered to make them safer for children and adults: school zones should be made safer and planning measures should focus on entire urban environments to improve safety conditions where people are likely to circulate.

-- It is imperative to restore spaces sacrificed for motorized traffic to pedestrians and cyclists.

-- Public transit must be bolstered and speed limits should be stricter for motorists.

-- Mothers and fathers should set an example for their children by having at least one parent walk or use public transit to commute.

-- More parents need to be convinced of the importance of walking for daily energy expenditure, whether kids do it alone or accompanied, which would foster greater autonomy in kids.

Source: University of Montreal

Explore further: Effectiveness of campaigns addressing violence against women and girls examined

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Four Kansas laboratories work on ending famine

13 hours ago

Can a wasp feed the world? It can help. If its larvae are nurtured near millet fields where a devastating moth steals harvests from the field, they can grow to become predators that destroy the pests and save a crop. And ...

Japan's smartphone 'zombies' wreak havoc on the streets

Nov 12, 2014

When the lights change at the Shibuya crossing in Japan's capital, one of the world's busiest pedestrian thoroughfares, hundreds of people with their eyes glued to smartphones pick their way over the road.

Sickness stalks India village with toxic water

Nov 11, 2014

Through his bloodshot, ruined eyes, ten-year-old Roshan Singh struggles to read his favourite comic book before readying for school in this remote and desolate village along the Indian-Pakistan border.

Recommended for you

US seniors' health poorest, global survey shows

3 hours ago

(HealthDay)— Seniors in America have more chronic health problems and take more medications than seniors in 10 other industrialized countries do, according to a new global survey. The United States also ...

New survey of employers about the health insurance market

5 hours ago

A new nationally representative survey of employers—the largest purchasers of health care in the country— shows that most are unfamiliar with objective metrics of health plan quality information. The survey, conducted ...

Running really can keep you young, study says

8 hours ago

If you are an active senior who wants to stay younger, keep on running. A new study involving the University of Colorado Boulder and Humboldt State University shows that senior citizens who run several times ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.