The influence of urban form and family decision making on children's travel to school

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Publication details

Pont, K, Wadley, D, Ziviani, J & Khan, A 2013, 'The influence of urban form and family decision making on children's travel to school', Journal of Urban Design, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 363-382.

Article available on Open Access

Peer Reviewed



Since Western lifestyles can foster obesity and other problems, attention is turning to active travel (AT) as a means of increasing physical activity for both adults and children. Children's routines regularly focus on trips to and from school which can admit walking and other AT. Yet promoting such an approach encounters a problem around the relative influence on AT of urban form and family decision making. To address it, this study applies the recently-constructed Model of Children's Active Travel (M-CAT). Via its formulations, two field sites in Queensland, Australia, were selected based on objective physical characteristics, determined as supportive and not supportive of children's AT. Parents of 206 children aged 9 to 12 years were surveyed. While 43% reported that their children used AT, a significant difference was observed among children dwelling in areas identified as having high as opposed to low support. Behind this clear result, objective attributes of the physical environment, parents' perceptions and evaluations of urban form and child and family characteristics link in intricate ways to determine children's level of engagement. The inquiry argues for an interdisciplinary approach involving urban designers, planners and health care professionals to address a complex physical and social interaction.

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