Children's Route Choice During Active Transportation to School

Difference Between Shortest and Actual Route


  • The built environment has a significant impact on a child’s choice to walk or bike to school. Specifically, children tend to avoid busy streets on their active commute to school, which is an important consideration for the planning and design of the neighborhoods surrounding schools. 


  • Children mainly traveled through residential areas and used residential streets to get to school (49.8 % of their walking route, 43.9 % of their cycling route), which was significantly different than the shortest route to school.
  • Actual cycled routes had more traffic lights and junctions, and a higher chance of being on residential streets compared to the shortest GIS route.
  • No significant difference was found between percentage of greenery along children’s actual walking and biking route versus the shortest walking or biking route.
  • The percentage of sidewalks along the actual walking route was lower than the percentage of sidewalks along the shortest route.


  • This cross-sectional study analyzes the environmental correlates associated with route choice during active transportation to school. Seven schools in three suburban municipalities in the Netherlands participated in the study through the Schoolzone project, a study to investigate traffic safety impacts on physical activity in primary schools. Overall, 213 (63.8%) children participated in the study and 184 were included in the analysis. Children wore a GPS during waking hours for eight consecutive days to record geographical position every 5 seconds between April and June 2014. Built environment characteristics, including land use, traffic, aesthetics, and type of street, for both the shortest and actual traveled routes were determined within a 25-mile buffer of the school.

Dessing, D., Vries, S., Hegeman, G., Verhagen, E., Mechelen, W. and Pierik, F. (2016). Children’s route choice during active transportation to school: difference between shortest and actual route. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2016) 13:48, 1-11. 

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