2012 - Research

From Barrier Elimination to Barrier Negotiation

A Qualitative Study of Parents' Attitudes About Active Travel for Elementary School Trips

This paper examines parents' responses to key factors associated with mode choices for school trips. The research was conducted with parents of elementary school students in Denver Colorado as part of a larger investigation of school travel.

  • School-based active travel programs aim to encourage students to walk or bike to school more frequently. To that end, planning research has identified an array of factors associated with parents' decisions to drive children to school. Many findings are interpreted as ‘barriers’ to active travel, implying that parents have similar objectives with respect to travel mode choices and that parents respond similarly and consistently to external conditions. While the conclusions are appropriate in forecasting demand and mode share with large populations, they are generally too coarse for programs that aim to influence travel behavior with individuals and small groups.
  • This research uses content analysis of interview transcripts to examine the contexts of factors associated with parents' mode choices for trips to and from elementary school. Short, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 65 parents from 12 Denver Public Elementary Schools that had been selected to receive 2007–08 Safe Routes to School non-infrastructure grants. Transcripts were analyzed using Nvivo 8.0 to find out how parents respond to selected factors that are often described in planning literature as ‘barriers’ to active travel.
  • Regular active travel appears to diminish parents' perceptions of barriers so that negotiation becomes second nature. Findings from this study suggest that intervention should build capacity and inclination in order to increase rates of active travel.

Zuniga, Kelly Draper. (2012). “From Barrier Elimination to Barrier Negotiation: A Qualitative Study of Parents’ Attitudes about Active Travel for Elementary School Trips” Transport Policy 20: 75–81.