Archives 4 - The Influence of the Built Environment on Travel Behaviors

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“A Systematic Review of Interventions for Promoting Active Transportation to School” (2011)

  • Active transportation to school is an important contributor to the total physical activity of children and adolescents. However, active school travel has declined over time, and interventions are needed to reverse this trend. The purpose of this paper is to review intervention studies related to active school transportation to guide future intervention research.
  • A systematic review was conducted to identify intervention studies of active transportation to school published in the scientific literature through January 2010. Five electronic databases and a manual search were conducted. Detailed information was extracted, including a quantitative assessment comparing the effect sizes, and a qualitative assessment using an established evaluation tool.
  • The authors identified 14 interventions that focused on active transportation to school. These interventions mainly focused on primary school children in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Almost all the interventions used quasi-experimental designs (10/14), and most of the interventions reported a small effect size on active transportation (6/14).
  • Study findings: (1) Existing interventions to promote active transportation to and from school are heterogeneous, due to the size, scope, and focus of the intervention and measurements. (2) Interventions with appropriate school, parent, and community involvement and that work toward a specific goal (i.e., increasing active transportation) seemed to be more effective than interventions that were broader in focus. (3) Intervention quality was often low as measured by the EPHPP tool. (4) Interventions evidenced a small but promising effectiveness in increasing active transportation to school. 

Chillon P., Evenson, K.R., Vaughnm A., Ward, D.S. (2011). A Systematic Review of interventions for Promoting Active Transportation to School. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 8:10.

“Built environment, physical activity, and obesity: What have we learned from reviewing the literature?” (2011)

  • This study evaluated the growing literature on the built environment and physical activity and obesity by conducting a review of review papers. They analyzed research gaps and areas of improvement identified by previous reviews and propose a research agenda.
  • Through a systematic search, the authors identified 36 reviews that met the inclusion criteria; 26 focused on physical activity as the outcome, five on obesity, and five on both.
  • The reviews targeted youth, of which four separated adolescents from children, five reviews targeted adults, two seniors, one separately included youth and adults, and 17 reviews either combined all age groups or did not specify the age of the target population.
  • One review targeted African Americans, one focused on the disadvantaged (operationalized as low SES, black race, and Hispanic ethnicity), and one targeted rural adults.
  • Twenty reviews reported the measurement mode of built environmental attributes, only four stratified reviewed papers/associations based on objective and perceived measures. Five studies only focused on objectively assessed environments. Of the 31 reviews that included a physical activity outcome, nine reported the measurement mode of physical activity, and five stratified by measurement mode.
  • Ten reviews focused on reported physical activity outcomes only (e.g. active transportation, walking) therefore further stratification was not applicable. Of the ten reviews that included an obesity outcome, five reported measurement modes, only one stratified by measurement modes.

Ding, D. and K. Gebel (2011). "Built environment, physical activity, and obesity: What have we learned from reviewing the literature?" Health & Place 18(1): 100-105.

“A Study Of Community Design, Greenness, and Physical Activity in Children Using Satellite, GPS and Accelerometer Data” (2011)

  • This study examined relationships between greenness exposure and free-living physical activity behavior of children in smart growth and conventionally designed communities.
  • The authors developed a Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to quantify children’s (n=208) greenness exposure using an accelerometer and GPS data points.
  • Excluding activity at home and during school hours, the study found that momentary greenness exposure was positively associated with the likelihood of concurrent moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). This association was stronger for smart growth residents who experienced a 39% increase in odds of MVPA for a 10th to 90th percentile increase in exposure to greenness.
  • An individual-level analysis found that children who experienced at least 20 minutes of daily exposure to greener spaces engaged in nearly 5 times the daily rate of MVPA of children with nearly zero daily exposure to greener spaces.

Almanza, E., M. Jerrett, et al. (2012). "A study of community design, greenness, and physical activity in children using satellite, GPS and accelerometer data." Health & Place 18(1): 46-54.

“Environmental Correlates of Physical Activity and Dietary Behaviors among Young People: A Systematic Review of Reviews” (2011)

  • An extensive body of research exists on environmental influences on weight-related behaviors in young people. Existing reviews aimed to synthesize this body of work, but generally focused on specific samples, behaviors or environmental influences and integration of findings is lacking.
  • The authors reviewed 18 reviews representing 671 unique studies, aiming to identify what environmental factors do and do not affect physical activity and dietary behaviors in children and adolescents. Eleven reviews focused exclusively on physical activity, six on diet, and one review focused on both physical activity and dietary behaviors with only small overlap in included studies.
  • Physical activity was more consistently related to school and neighborhood characteristics than to interpersonal and societal environments. In contrast, interpersonal factors played a pronounced role in dietary behaviors; no school, neighborhood or societal factors were consistently related to dietary behaviors.
  • This review of reviews adds to the literature by providing a comprehensive synthesis of factors related to physical activity and dietary behaviors that could be targeted in interventions. Moreover, by identifying factors that are unrelated to physical activity and dietary behaviors, this review may help to narrow the scope of future studies and environmental interventions.

de Vet, E., de Ridder, D.T., de Wit, J.B. (2011). Environmental Correlates of Physical Activity and Dietary Behaviors among Young People: A Systematic Review of Reviews. Obesity Reviews: An Official Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity 12(5):e130–142.

“Neighborhood Environment and Physical Activity among Youth: A Review” (2011)

  • Research examining the association between environmental attributes and physical activity among youth is growing. An updated review of literature is needed to summarize the current evidence base, and to inform policies and environmental interventions to promote active lifestyles among young people.
  • A literature search was conducted using the Active Living Research (ALR) literature database, an online database that codes study characteristics and results of published papers on built/social environment and physical activity/obesity/sedentary behavior. Papers in the ALR database were identified through PubMed, Web of Science, and SPORTDiscus using systematically developed and expert-validated search protocols. For the current review, additional inclusion criteria were used to select observational, quantitative studies among youth aged 3–18 years.
  • Papers were categorized by design features, sample characteristics, and measurement mode. Relevant results were summarized, stratified by age (children or adolescents) and mode of measurement (objective or perceived) for environmental attributes and physical activity. Percentage of significant results was calculated.
  • Mode of measurement greatly influenced the consistency of associations between environmental attributes and youth physical activity. For both children and adolescents, the most consistent associations involved objectively measured environmental attributes and reported physical activity. The most supported correlates for children were walkability, traffic speed/volume, access/proximity to recreation facilities, land-use mix, and residential density. The most supported correlates for adolescents were land-use mix and residential density. These findings support several recommendations for policy and environmental change from such groups as the IOM and National Physical Activity Plan.

Ding, D., Sallis, J.F., Kerr, J., et al. (2011). Neighborhood Environment and Physical Activity among Youth: A Review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 41(4):442–455.

 “The Street Level Built Environment and Physical Activity and Walking Results of a Predictive Validity Study for the Irvine Minnesota Inventory” (2011)

  • The Irvine Minnesota Inventory (IMI) was designed to measure environmental features that may be associated with physical activity and particularly walking. This study assesses how well the IMI predicts physical activity and walking behavior and develops shortened, validated audit tools. A version of the IMI was used in the Twin Cities Walking Study, a research project measuring how density, street pattern, mixed use, pedestrian infrastructure, and a variety of social and economic factors affect walking.
  • Both bivariate and multivariate analyses were used to assess the predictive value of the IMI. The study found that while this inventory provides reliable measurement of urban design features, only some of these features present associations with increased or decreased walking.
  • This article presents two versions of shortened scales—a prudent scale, requiring association with two separate measures of a physical activity or walking behavior, and a moderate scale, requiring association with one measure of physical activity or walking. The shortened scales provide built environment audit instruments that have been tested both for inter-rater reliability and for associations with physical activity and walking.
  • The results are also useful in showing which built environment variables are more reliably associated with walking for travel—characteristics of the sidewalk infrastructure, street crossings and traffic speeds, and land use are more strongly associated with walking for travel, while factors that measure aesthetics are typically less strongly associated with walking for travel.

Boarnet, M. G., A. Forsyth, et al. (2011). "The Street Level Built Environment and Physical Activity and Walking." Environment and Behavior 43(6): 735-775.

“Validation of Walk Score for Estimating Neighborhood Walkability: An Analysis of Four US Metropolitan Areas” (2011)

  • Neighborhood walkability can influence physical activity. This study evaluated the validity of Walk Score for assessing neighborhood walkability based on GIS (objective) indicators of neighborhood walkability with addresses from four US metropolitan areas with several street network buffer distances (i.e., 400-, 800-, and 1,600-meters).
  • Address data come from the YMCA-Harvard After School Food and Fitness Project, an obesity prevention intervention involving children aged 5–11 years and their families participating in YMCA-administered, after-school programs located in four geographically diverse metropolitan areas in the US (n = 733).
  • GIS data were used to measure multiple objective indicators of neighborhood walkability. Walk Scores were also obtained for the participant’s residential addresses.
  • Spearman correlations between Walk Scores and the GIS neighborhood walkability indicators were calculated as well as Spearman correlations accounting for spatial autocorrelation. There were many significant moderate correlations between Walk Scores and the GIS neighborhood walkability indicators such as density of retail destinations and intersection density (p < 0.05). The magnitude varied by the GIS indicator of neighborhood walkability. Correlations generally became stronger with a larger spatial scale, and there were some geographic differences.
  • Walk Score is free and publicly available for public health researchers and practitioners. Results from our study suggest that Walk Score® is a valid measure of estimating certain aspects of neighborhood walkability, particularly at the 1600-meter buffer. As such, the study confirms and extends the generalizability of previous findings demonstrating that Walk Score is a valid measure of estimating neighborhood walkability in multiple geographic locations and at multiple spatial scales.

Duncan, D.T., Aldstadt, J., Whalen, J., Melly S.J., & Gortmaker, S.L. (2011). Validation of Walk Score for Estimating Neighborhood Walkability: An Analysis of Four US Metropolitan Areas. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8(11), 4160-4179.

“The Neighborhood Recreational Environment and Physical Activity among Urban Youth: An Examination of Public and Private Recreational Facilities” (2011)

  • Recreational facility availability has been shown to associate positively with youth physical activity levels. Nonetheless, little is known about additional facility characteristics affecting their use for physical activity as well as differences between private and public facilities.
  • This study examines (1) perceptions and use of public and private recreational facilities and (2) environmental and individual-level correlates of both facility use and physical activity among urban adolescents.
  • Physical activity was assessed using accelerometry, objective measures of facility availability were obtained using Geographical Information Systems data, and facility use and perceptions were measured with a survey (N = 327).
  • Adolescents were more likely to use public than private facilities despite perceiving that private facilities were of higher quality. Adolescents’ use of both public and private facilities was associated with perceived (but not objective) availability, perceived quality, and use by friends and family. Public, but not private, facility use was associated with physical activity.
  • This study reveals the importance of public facilities to the physical activity of urban youth.

Ries, A. V., A. F. Yan, et al. (2011). “The Neighborhood Recreational Environment and Physical Activity among Urban Youth: An Examination of Public and Private Recreational Facilities.” Journal of Community Health: 36(4):640-9.

“The Health Risks and Benefits of Cycling in Urban Environments Compared with Car Use: Health Impact Assessment Study” (2011)

  • The purpose of this study is to estimate the risks and benefits to health of travel by bicycle, using a bicycle sharing scheme, compared with travel by car in an urban environment.
  • This is a study of a public bicycle sharing initiative (Bicing) in Barcelona, Spain with 181,982 Bicing subscribers.
  • The primary outcome measure was all cause mortality for the three domains of physical activity, air pollution (exposure to particulate matter <2.5 µm), and road traffic incidents. The secondary outcome was change in levels of carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Compared with car users the estimated annual change in mortality of the Barcelona residents using Bicing (n=181 982) was 0.03 deaths from road traffic incidents and 0.13 deaths from air pollution. As a result of physical activity, 12.46 deaths were avoided (benefit:risk ratio 77). The annual number of deaths avoided was 12.28. As a result of journeys by Bicing, annual carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by an estimated 9 062 344 kg.
  • Public bicycle sharing initiatives such as Bicing in Barcelona have greater benefits than risks to health and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Rojas-Rueda, D., A. de Nazelle, et al. (2011). "The Health Risks and Benefits of Cycling in Urban Environments Compared with Car Use: Health Impact Assessment Study." BMJ 343.

“Reliability and Validity of the Safe Routes to School Parent and Student Surveys” (2011)

  • This study assesses the reliability and validity of the U.S. National Center for Safe Routes to School’s in-class student travel tallies and written parent surveys. Over 65,000 tallies and 374,000 parent surveys have been completed, but no published studies have examined their measurement properties.
  • Students and parents from two Charlotte, NC elementary schools participated in this study. A total of 542 students participated in the in-class student travel tally reliability assessment and 262 parent-student dyads participated in the validity assessment.
  • Tallies were conducted on two consecutive days using a hand-raising protocol; on day two students were also asked to recall the previous days’ travel. The recall from day two was compared with day one to assess 24-hour test-retest reliability. Convergent validity was assessed by comparing parent-reports of students’ travel mode with student-reports of travel mode. Two-week test-retest reliability of the parent survey was assessed by comparing within-parent responses. Reliability and validity were assessed using kappa statistics.
  • Reliability was high for travel to and from school (kappa > 0.8); convergent validity was lower but still high (kappa > 0.75). There were no differences by student grade level. Two-week test-retest reliability of the parent survey (n = 112) ranged from moderate to very high for objective questions on travel mode and travel times (kappa range: 0.62 - 0.97) but was substantially lower for subjective assessments of barriers to walking to school (kappa range: 0.31 - 0.76).
  • The student in-class student travel tally exhibited high reliability and validity at all elementary grades. The parent survey had high reliability on questions related to student travel mode, but lower reliability for attitudinal questions identifying barriers to walking to school. Parent survey design should be improved so that responses clearly indicate issues that influence parental decision making in regards to their children’s mode of travel to school.

McDonald, N. C., A. E. Dwelley, et al. (2011). "Reliability and validity of the Safe Routes to school parent and student surveys." International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 8(1): 56.

“Walking Routes to School in New Urban and Suburban Neighborhoods: An Environmental Walkability Analysis of Blocks and Routes” (2011)

  • This study assesses the environmental and perceptual correlates of walking and walkability for fifth graders from three communities attending two schools: A new urban/LEED-ND pilot community, mixed, and standard suburban community.
  • Irvine-Minnesota Inventory (IMI) walkability audits showed that new urban blocks provided more traffic safety, pleasurability, crime safety, density, and diversity. New urban routes offered greater traffic safety, accessibility, pleasurability, crime safety, and diversity, but suburban routes had greater housing density, net of controls (parental education, rooms in the home, home ownership, parent preference for child to walk to school).
  • Parents and children perceived new urban routes to be more walkable and children walked more when they lived on more walkable routes. The suburban hierarchical street design exposed children to varied traffic safety conditions by funneling their walks from cul-de-sacs to arterials. The new urban routes to a centrally located school passed by pleasant open spaces, suggesting how community organization can create better walking conditions.

Gallimore, J. M., B. B. Brown, et al. (2011). "Walking routes to school in new urban and suburban neighborhoods: An environmental walkability analysis of blocks and routes." Journal of Environmental Psychology.

“GIS measured environmental correlates of active school transport: A systematic review of 14 studies” (2011)

  • Emerging frameworks to examine active school transportation (AST) commonly emphasize the built environment (BE) as having an influence on travel mode decisions.
  • Objective measures of BE attributes have been recommended for advancing knowledge about the influence of the BE on school travel mode choice.
  • An updated systematic review on the relationships between GIS-measured BE attributes and AST is required to inform future research in this area. The objectives of this review are: i) to examine and summarize the relationships between objectively measured BE features and AST in children and adolescents and ii) to critically discuss GIS methodologies used in this context.
  • Six electronic databases, and websites were systematically searched, and reference lists were searched and screened to identify studies examining AST in students aged five to 18 and reporting GIS as an environmental measurement tool. Fourteen cross-sectional studies were identified. The analyses were classified in terms of density, diversity, and design and further differentiated by the measures used or environmental condition examined.
  • Only distance was consistently found to be negatively associated with AST. Consistent findings of positive or negative associations were not found for land use mix, residential density, and intersection density. Potential modifiers of any relationship between these attributes and AST included age, school travel mode, route direction (e.g., to/from school), and trip-end (home or school). Methodological limitations included inconsistencies in geocoding, selection of study sites, buffer methods and the shape of zones (Modifiable Areal Unit Problem [MAUP]), the quality of road and pedestrian infrastructure data, and school route estimation.
  • The inconsistent use of spatial concepts limits the ability to draw conclusions about the relationship between objectively measured environmental attributes and AST.
  • Future research should explore standardizing buffer size, assess the quality of street network datasets and, if necessary, customize existing datasets, and explore further attributes linked to safety.

Wong, B. Y. M., G. Faulkner, et al. (2011). "GIS measured environmental correlates of active school transport: A systematic review of 14 studies." International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 8(1): 39.

“Spatial Analysis of the Propensity to Escort Children to School in Southern California” (2011)

  • Spatial distribution of children’s school commute behavior was analyzed from three perspectives that are: 1) commuting to school independently of parents, 2) commuting to school by active modes and 3) allocation of escorting tasks for children between mother and father.
  • Accessibility measures and population density were introduced in the propensity regression models to account for the impact of spatial characteristics at school locations and to identify the spatial distribution of behavioral patterns.
  • Each of the spatial patterns created a map combining the impact of all the significant spatial variables to display patterns of behavior and intra-household interaction. These patterns are able to identify, as examples, the negative impact of a park area in the middle of the City of Los Angeles on children’s independent and active commute to school and the significantly different intra-household interaction patterns at different locations in the region.
  • The results of this study show an opportunity to expand the microanalysis to a more comprehensive treatment of travel behavior in space and to contribute to the development of models integrating land use and transportation.

Yoon, S. Y., M. Doudnikoff, et al. (2011). Spatial Analysis of the Propensity to Escort Children to School in Southern California. TRB 2011 Annual Meeting.

“A Cross-Sectional Study of the Individual, Social, and Built Environmental Correlates of Pedometer-Based Physical Activity among Elementary School Children” (2011)

  • Children who participate in regular physical activity obtain health benefits. Preliminary pedometer-based cut-points representing sufficient levels of physical activity among youth have been established; however limited evidence regarding correlates of achieving these cut-points exists. The purpose of this study was to identify correlates of pedometer-based cut-points among elementary school-aged children.
  • A cross-section of children in grades 5-7 (10-12 years of age) were randomly selected from the most (n = 13) and least (n = 12) ’walkable’ public elementary schools (Perth, Western Australia), stratified by socioeconomic status. Children (n = 1480; response rate = 56.6%) and parents (n = 1332; response rate = 88.8%) completed a survey, and steps were collected from children using pedometers. Pedometer data were categorized to reflect the sex-specific pedometer-based cut-points of ≥15000 steps/day for boys and ≥12000 steps/day for girls.
  • Associations between socio-demographic characteristics, sedentary and active leisure-time behavior, independent mobility, active transportation and built environmental variables - collected from the child and parent surveys - and meeting pedometer-based cut-points were estimated (odds ratios: OR) using generalized estimating equations.
  • Overall 927 children participated in all components of the study and provided complete data. On average, children took 11407 ± 3136 steps/day (boys: 12270 ± 3350 vs. girls: 10681 ± 2745 steps/day; p < 0.001) and 25.9% (boys: 19.1 vs. girls: 31.6%; p < 0.001) achieved the pedometer-based cut-points.
  • After adjusting for all other variables and school clustering, meeting the pedometer-based cut-points was negatively associated (p < 0.05) with being male (OR = 0.42), parent self-reported number of different destinations in the neighborhood (OR 0.93), and a friend’s (OR 0.62) or relative’s (OR 0.44, boys only) house being at least a 10-minute walk from home. Achieving the pedometer-based cut-points was positively associated with participating in screen-time < 2 hours/day (OR 1.88), not being driven to school (OR 1.48), attending a school located in a high SES neighborhood (OR 1.33), the average number of steps among children within the respondent’s grade (for each 500 step/day increase: OR 1.29), and living further than a 10-minute walk from a relative’s house (OR 1.69, girls only).
  • Comprehensive multi-level interventions that reduce screen-time, encourage active travel to/from school and foster a physically active classroom culture might encourage more physical activity among children.

McCormack, G. R., B. Giles-Corti, et al. (2011). "A cross-sectional study of the individual, social, and built environmental correlates of pedometer-based physical activity among elementary school children." International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 8(1): 30.

“Neighborhood Incivilities, Perceived Neighborhood Safety, and Walking to School among Urban-Dwelling Children” (2011)

  • Walking to school is an important source of physical activity among children. There is a paucity of research exploring environmental determinants of walking to school among children in urban areas.
  • A cross-sectional secondary analysis of baseline data (2007) from 365 children in the "Multiple Opportunities to Reach Excellence" (MORE) Study (8 to 13 years; Mean 9.60 years, SD 1.04). Children and caregivers were asked about walking to school and perceived safety. Objective measures of the environment were obtained using a validated environmental neighborhood assessment.
  • Over half (55.83%) of children reported walking to school most of the time. High levels of neighborhood incivilities were associated with lower levels of perceived safety (OR: 0.39, 95% CI: 0.21 to 0.72). Living on a block above the median in incivilities was associated with a 353% increase in odds of walking to school (OR: 3.53; 95% CI: 1.68 to 7.39).
  • Children residing in neighborhoods high in incivilities are more likely to walk to school, in spite of lower levels of perceived safety. As a high proportion of children residing in disadvantaged neighborhoods walk to school, efforts should be directed at minimizing exposure to neighborhood hazards by ensuring safe routes to and from school.

Rossen, L., K. Pollack, et al. (2011). "Neighborhood incivilities, perceived neighborhood safety, and walking to school among urban-dwelling children." Journal of physical activity & health 8(2): 262.

“Bicycling Renaissance in North America? An Update and Re-appraisal of Cycling Trends and Policies.” (2011)

  • This paper reviews trends in cycling levels, safety, and policies in Canada and the USA over the past two decades.
  • It analyzes aggregate data for the two countries as well as city-specific case study data for nine large cities (Chicago, Minneapolis, Montréal, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington). Cycling levels have increased in both the USA and Canada, while cyclist fatalities have fallen.
  • There is much spatial variation and socioeconomic inequality in cycling rates. The bike share of work commuters is more than twice as high in Canada as in the USA, and is higher in the western parts of both countries.
  • Cycling is concentrated in central cities, especially near universities and in gentrified neighborhoods near the city center.
  • Almost all the growth in cycling in the USA has been among men between 25–64 years old, while cycling rates have remained steady among women and fallen sharply for children.
  • Cycling rates have risen much faster in the nine case study cities than in their countries as a whole, at least doubling in all the cities since 1990. They have implemented a wide range of infrastructure and programs to promote cycling and increase cycling safety: expanded and improved bike lanes and paths, traffic calming, parking, bike-transit integration, bike sharing, training programs, and promotional events.
  • The paper describes the specific accomplishments of the nine case study cities, focusing on each city’s innovations and lessons for other cities trying to increase cycling. For instance, Portland’s comprehensive package of cycling policies has succeeded in raising cycling levels 6-fold and provides an example that other North American cities can follow.

Pucher J., Buehler, R., Seinen, M. “Bicycling Renaissance in North America? An Update and Re-appraisal of Cycling Trends and Policies.” Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice. 45.6 (2011): 451–475.

“The Influence of the Physical Environment and Sociodemographic Characteristics on Children’s Mode of Travel to and From School” (2011)

  • This study examines whether certain characteristics of the social and physical environment influence a child’s mode of travel between home and school.
  • Students aged 11 to 13 years from 21 schools throughout London, Ontario, answered questions from a travel behavior survey. A geographic information system linked survey responses for 614 students who lived within 1 mile of school to data on social and physical characteristics of environments around the home and school. Logistic regression analysis was used to test the influence of environmental factors on mode of travel (motorized vs "active") to and from school.
  • Over 62% of students walked or biked to school, and 72% from school to home. The likelihood of walking or biking to school was positively associated with shorter trips, male gender, higher land use mix, and presence of street trees. Active travel from school to home was also associated with lower residential densities and lower neighborhood incomes.
  • The findings of this study demonstrate that active travel is associated with environmental characteristics and suggest that school planners should consider these factors when siting schools in order to promote increased physical activity among students.

Giles-Corti, Billie, Wood, Gina, Pikora, Terri, Learnihan, Vincent, Bulsara, Max, Van Niel, Kimberly, Timperio, Anna, McCormack, Gavin, Villanueva, Karen. “The Influence of the Physical Environment and Sociodemographic Characteristics on Children’s Mode of Travel to and From School.” Health & Place. 17.2 (2011): 545-550.

“Context-Specific Correlates of Walking Behaviors to and From School: Do They Vary Across Neighborhoods and Populations?” (2011)

  • A growing number of studies have examined correlates of walking-to/from-school behaviors. However, the potential differences across neighborhoods have been understudied.
  • This study compared 4 elementary school settings (low-income inner-city; mid- to low-income, urban with and without freeway in attendance area; and high-income suburban) in Austin, Texas.
  • Parental surveys (n = 680, response rate = 25%) were analyzed using binary logistic regressions to identify correlates of walking to/from school for each setting. Five focus groups were conducted with 15 parents and analyzed using content analysis to supplement the survey results.
  • Parents’ personal barrier was the only consistently significant variable across 4 settings (OR = 0.113–0.463, P < .05). Parental education showed contrasting results between the suburban setting (OR = 3.895, P < .01) and the urban setting with freeway presence (OR = 0.568, P < .05).
  • Personal attitude and walking habit had lower explanatory power in lower-income settings than in the higher-income site. But sociodemographic, physical environment, and safety conditions had greater explanatory power in lower-income settings. Freeway barrier was significant in the inner-city setting (OR = 0.029, P < .05) and the urban setting with freeway presence (OR = 0.142, P < .05).
  • Significant differences in correlates of walking-to/from-school behaviors were found across the 4 elementary school settings, suggesting the importance of context-sensitive approaches in future research and practice.

Zhu, Xuemei, Lee, Chanam, Kwok, Oi-Man, Varni, JW. “Context-Specific Correlates of Walking Behaviors to and From School: Do They Vary Across Neighborhoods and Populations?” Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 8.Suppl1 (2011): S59-S71.

“Built Environment Predictors of Active Travel to School Among Rural Adolescents” (2011)

  • Most studies of active travel to school (ATS) have been conducted in urban or suburban areas and focused on young children. Little is known about ATS among rural adolescents.
  • This paper describes adolescent ATS in two predominantly rural states and determines if school neighborhood built environment characteristics (BECs) predict ATS after adjusting for school and individual characteristics.
  • Sixteen BECs were assessed through census data and onsite observations of 45 school neighborhoods in 2007. ATS and individual characteristics were assessed through telephone surveys with 1552 adolescents and their parents between 2007 and 2008. Active travelers were defıned as those who walked/cycled to/from school at least 1 day/week. Hierarchic linear modeling was used for analysis, conducted in 2009.
  • Slightly less than half of the sample lived within 3 miles of school, of whom 52.8% were active travelers. ATS frequency varied by season, ranging from a mean of 1.7 (SD=2.0) days/week in the winter to 3.7 (SD=1.6) in the spring.
  • Adolescents who attended schools in highly dense residential neighborhoods with sidewalks were most likely to be active travelers. ATS frequency was greater in school neighborhoods with high residential and intersection densities, onstreet parking, food outlets, and taller and continuous buildings with small setbacks.
  • The BECs that support safe travel may be necessary to allow for ATS, whereas ATS frequency among adolescents may be influenced by a wider variety of design characteristics. Additional strategies to promote ATS and physical activity are needed in rural areas because of long commuting distances for many students.

Dalton, Madeline A., Longacre, Meghan R., Drake, Keith M., Gibson, Lucinda,. Adachi-Mejia, Anna M, Swain, Karin, Xie, Haiyi, Owens, Peter M. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 40.3 (2011):312–319.

“Contributions of Built Environment to Childhood Obesity” (2011)

  • As childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions, it is critical to devise interventions that target the root causes of obesity and its risk factors. The two main components of childhood obesity are physical inactivity and improper nutrition, and it is becoming increasingly evident that the built environment can determine the level of exposure to these risk factors.
  • Through a multidisciplinary literature review, the authors investigated the association between various built environment attributes and childhood obesity.
  • They found that neighborhood features such as walkability/bikeability, mixed land use, accessible destinations, and transit increase resident physical activity; also that access to high-caloric foods and convenience stores increases risk of overweight and obesity, whereas the presence of neighborhood supermarkets and farmers’ markets is associated with lower childhood body mass index and overweight status.
  • It is evident that a child’s built environment impacts his access to nutritious foods and physical activity. In order for children, as well as adults, to prevent onset of overweight or obesity, they need safe places to be active and local markets that offer affordable, healthy food options. Interventions that are designed to provide safe, walkable neighborhoods with access to necessary destinations will be effective in combating the epidemic of obesity.

Rahman, T, Cushing, RA, Jackson, RJ. Mt Sinai Journal of Medicine. 78 (2011):49–57.

“Public Support for Street-Scale Urban Design Practices and Policies to Increase Physical Activity” (2011)

  • Street-scale urban design policies are recommended to increase physical activity in communities; thus, this study examines U.S. public support for such policies.
  • The percentages of people rating neighborhood features as having high importance were higher in people aged 65 years or older versus those less than 65 and minority racial/ethnic groups versus non-Hispanic whites.
  • Two-thirds of adults were willing to take civic action to support local street-scale urban design policy. The odds of being willing to take any action versus none was higher in non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics versus non-Hispanic whites; was higher in those with household incomes greater than $60,000 versus less than $15,000 per year; and increased as education and perceived importance of neighborhood features increased.

Carlson, Susan A., Guide, Roxanna, Schmid, Thomas L., Moore, Latetia V., Barradas, Danielle T., and Fulton, Janet E. “Public Support for Street-Scale Urban Design Practices and Policies to Increase Physical Activity.” Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 8.Suppl1 (2011): S125-S134.

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