School Walk Zone: Identifying Environments that Foster Walking and Biking to School

Key takeaways:

  • This study of one U.S. city (College Station, Texas) found that most students commute to/from school by personal vehicle. Findings are established for the number of days per week and mode of travel, broken down for both walking and biking, and separated by gender. In this community, 39 percent of children walk at least once per week, and 23 percent bike. Boys are significantly more likely to bike than girls.
  • More children walked home from school (38 percent) than to school (19 percent)
  • Children who walked to school at least once per week tended to live on a grid street rather than a cul-de-sac and lived closer to school. This was also true for children biking to school.  
  • Children were more likely to walk to school if there were more mature trees and shrubs, but not necessarily bike lanes present. Children were more likely to bike if there were fewer intersections to cross.
  • Children whose parents were more concerned about crime, traffic volume, traffic speed, a lack of sidewalks/bikeways, and lack of separation between traffic and sidewalks/bikeways were less likely to walk or bike to school.
  • Children were also less likely to walk if convenience was an issue which included factors such as distance, not enough time, after-school schedule, convenience, and child’s unwillingness.
  • The average walking street distance was 0.71 miles, while the average biking distance was about 0.93 miles. For children who rode to school, the average car distance was 1.08 miles, while the mean bus distance was 1.44 miles. 
  • Schools located centrally within the school walk zone versus those on the edge of a walk zone show higher numbers of walking and biking. A school walk zone in Texas is the two-mile area around the school where bus transportation.


  • Site schools in central locations where families live so that distances promote and facilitate active travel. 
  • Distance and the perception of convenience raise questions about how walk zones are defined. Many states use a two-mile street distance, others use one and a half- mile distance. This study indicates that both might be too far since walkers come from predominantly a half-mile distance and bikers come from one-mile distance.
  • Safe Routes to School programs like walking school buses or bicycle trains could help address issues of convenience that are concerns for parents, and messaging and promotion could be framed accordingly.   

Kweon, B. Shin, W. and Ellis, C.D. “School Walk Zone: Identifying Environments that Foster Walking and Biking to School.” Sustainability 15, 2912 (2023).

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