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Influential factors in childrens school travel: Safe Routes to School and beyond


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Title: Influential factors in childrens school travel: Safe Routes to School and beyond

Influential factors in childrens school
travelSafe Routes to School and beyond
  • Tracy E. McMillan, PhD, MPH
  • University of Texas at Austin

Elementary School property
  • The paradox of transportation in the late
    twentieth century is that while it became
    possible to travel to the moon, it also became
    impossible, in many cases, to walk across the
  • Joell Vanderwagen, 1995. Coming down to earth,
    in Zielinski, S. and Laird, G. (eds), Beyond the
    car, Steel Rail Press, Toronto, pp.137-139.

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Childrens travel behavior and health
  • Transportation Issues
  • Significant mode shift in school travel over the
    past few decades
  • 1969 87 of school trips private auto
  • 2001 55 of school trips private auto
  • Localized congestion/hazardous travel in school
  • Ped/bike highest rate of injury/fatality on per
    mile basis compared to other modes of school
  • Burden on household
  • Mothers are five times more likely to be
    transporting children than fathers
  • Trip chaining

  • Health issues
  • Low rates of overall physical activity
  • Increase in age-adjusted prevalence of overweight
  • From 4 in 1963-65 to 15 in 1999 youth aged
  • Mexican-Americans and non-Hispanic blacks
    disproportionately represented in 12-19 age group
  • School trip important contributor to overall
    daily physical activity
  • Pedestrian injuries 2nd leading cause of
    unintentional injury death for youth aged 5-14
  • 20,000 non-fatal pedestrian injuries for this age
    group in 2001

Cost to the nation
  • Heart disease 193.8 billion (2001), health care
    lost productivity
  • Cancer 189.5 billion (2003)
  • Diabetes 132 billion (2002)

Is the built environment to blame for changes in
travel and health behavior/outcomes?
  • What some research shows guilty by association
  • Two broad characteristics of the pedestrian
    infrastructure associated with walking behavior
  • Presence
  • Accessibility
  • Quality
  • Safety
  • Security
  • However, there are limitations to this research
  • Focus on adult behavior their activities
    destinationsdoes this transfer over to children?
  • Little understanding of the structural
    relationship between variables of influenceno
    causal path

The reality of influencing behavior
  • Its not as simple as we would like!
  • Not just tell them whats best and theyll do it
  • Not just build it and theyll come
  • Dealing with multiple factors that we can affect
    directly and indirectly

Relative influence of built environment on
childrens school travel
  • Built environment does influence the probability
    of walk/bike to school
  • Two significant variables mixed use windows
    facing street
  • What wasnt significant? Sidewalks
  • Magnitude of influence of individual built
    environment variables was small
  • However, the overall effect of built environment
    did help in the prediction of the walking trip to

More influential factors on caregivers decision
  • Perceptions of neighborhood traffic safety
  • Reported distance
  • Social/cultural norms
  • Parents attitudes perceptions toward travel
  • Sociodemographics

Policy implications for SR2S
  • Highlights the complexity of travel behavior
  • Emphasizes the importance of correctly
    identifying problems before creating solutions
  • Most cost-effective and equitable solutions for
    changing travel behavior may involve a
    multi-pronged approach (education, enforcement
    and engineering)

Policy implications for SR2S
  • The experience of place, not just the structure
    of space, affects behavior
  • Built environment may still have significant
    impact on cost of development if outcomes of
    inactivity are quantified

The California Safe Routes to School Program
Background and Evaluation
  • Marlon G. Boarnet1, Kristen Day1, Craig
    Anderson1, Tracy McMillan2, Mariela Alfonzo1
  • 1 University of California, Irvine
  • 2 University of Texas, Austin
  • Funding UC Transportation Center and Caltrans

SR2S Background
  • Authorized by California AB 1475, 1999
  • Renewed by SB10, 2001
  • Renewed again by SB 1087, 2004

SR2S Background
  • AB 1475 authorized setting aside 1/3 of
    Californias federal Surface Transportation
    Program safety funds for two years for the SR2S
  • Motivation high profile pedestrian accidents
  • Coalition of safety, school, non-motorized
    transportation advocates

SR2S Funding
  • Projects funded at 90 / 10 state/local
  • Projects capped at 450,000 of state (federal)
  • Five cycles of projects funded so far
  • 455 projects
  • 111.7 million in federal funds
  • 124.1 million total funds
  • Average project funding 273,000

SR2S Program
  • Administered by the Division of Local Assistance
    within Caltrans
  • Authorizing legislation required an evaluation by
    December, 2003, with funds for evaluation
  • Legislative goals
  • Increased pedestrian/bicycling safety near
  • Increased viability/frequency of
    walking/bicycling to schools
  • SR2S was, first, a safety program

SR2S application
  • Recent Caltrans brochure states that successful
    local applications highlight
  • How the proposal supports an existing traffic
    safety or health promotion plan.
  • How the application has been developed through
    problem identification using a "walkability
    checklist" or other audit tool.
  • Demonstrated understanding about how proposed
    engineering solutions interrelate to enforcement,
    education and other strategies.
  • Evidence-based estimates regarding the impact of
    the proposed project both risk reduction and
    health promotion.

SR2S evaluation
  • Caltrans contract, pursuant to Streets and
    Highways Code 2333.5 118,500
  • University of California Transportation
    Center 162,614

Research Design
  • Multiple Case Study Approach, 10 school sites
  • Before/After evaluation
  • Traffic characteristics
  • Vehicle counts, vehicle speed, yield to
    non-motorized traffic, walk/bicycling counts and
    on sidewalk/street
  • Urban Design
  • Survey of parents of 3rd-5th grade children
  • Did child walk more after SR2S construction?

School Sites
  • 16 Schools chosen, 10 completed SR2S construction
    by Fall, 2003
  • Schools chosen based on
  • Elementary school (70 of Cycle I schools
  • Variation in urban/rural/suburban setting
  • Represent six SR2S work types
  • Willingness to be included in study
  • Fit with research window, April 2002 through
    Fall, 2003

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Busy street proximate to Cesar Chavez Elementary
New traffic signal at Loveland Avenue and
Jaboneria Road
Cesar Chavez Elementary School
Glenoaks Boulevard before installation of
crosswalk lighting system
Glenoaks Elementary School
New pedestrian-activated, in-pavement crosswalk
lighting system on Glenoaks Boulevard
Northwest view of Morning View Drive from Juan
Cabrillo Elementary School
New decomposed granite pathway near school
Decomposed granite pathway southeast from school
along Morning View Drive
Juan Cabrillo Elementary School
Adams Avenue before improvement
Adams Avenue after sidewalk installation
Murrieta Elementary School
New sidewalk at the San Pablo Dam Road and May
Road intersection
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Evaluation Compare Outcomes to Expected Effects
Note Some school projects are more than one
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Study Methods
  • Before/After Construction Data Collection at Each
  • Observations/Data Collection
  • Traffic Characteristics
  • Survey of Parents of 3rd through 5th Graders
  • Observe Urban Design within ¼ Mile of School

Traffic Observations
  • Observations for two days before and after SR2S
  • 30 minutes before start of school to 15 minutes
    after start of school
  • 15 minutes before end of school to 30 minutes
    after end of school
  • Teams of 3-4 observers

Traffic Observations
  • Vehicle Counts
  • Vehicle Speed (via stopwatch to time travel of
    car for pre-marked distance between landmarks
    human error estimated in analysis)
  • Yielding of Vehicles to Pedestrians/Bicyclists
  • Pedestrian Counts and Locations (on street/path
    or shoulder/sidewalk)
  • All data for 2-minute intervals assess total
    and peak/off-peak

Parent Survey
  • Distributed to parents of 3rd-5th grade children
    at all schools
  • Before Construction Survey response rate ranged
    from 36 to 72 -- 51 response in full sample
  • After Construction Survey response rate ranged
    from 23 to 57 -- 40 response rate in full
  • 1,562 before surveys 1,244 after surveys

Parent Survey
  • How child normally travels to school
  • Perceptions of safety
  • Perceptions of urban design and child travel
  • Attitudes
  • Demographic characteristics
  • Perceptions of traffic near school
  • Perceptions of social/cultural norms about
  • Assessment of SR2S project

Urban Design
  • Block by block assessment for ¼ mile around
  • Gives information on, e.g.,
  • of blocks with complete sidewalk
  • of blocks with bike lanes
  • Average block length
  • Number of lanes in street
  • Paving treatments
  • Cul-de-sacs
  • Street trees

  • Detailed data collection and analysis
  • Project impact assessed by comparing before and
    after data
  • Impact assessed relative to expected impact for
    each project
  • Example traffic light expected to improve
    yielding sidewalk expected to change location
    and amount of walking

How to Assess SR2S project effectiveness
  • Amount of walking
  • Yielding of cars to non-motorized travelers
  • Location of walking (on or off sidewalk)
  • Vehicle speeds
  • For all of above, consider expected and measured
    impact of the project a traffic light would
    have different expected effects than a sidewalk

Sidewalk Gap Closure Results
Sheldon Average Vehicle Speeds on San Pablo Dam
Sheldon Safety Advantage from Shift of Walking
to Sidewalk
San Pablo Dam Road after sidewalk improvement
San Pablo Dam Road before sidewalk improvement
Traffic Control Device Results
Another Looking at Walk/Bike Travel and SR2S
  • After Construction survey asked
  • Would you say that your child now walks or
    bicycles to school 
  • Less than before the project described above was
  • The same amount as before the project was built.
  • More than before the project was built.

Sort by Whether SR2S Project Along Route to School
  • Survey asked if project was along childs usual
    route to school
  • 52 of parents said yes 48 said no

After Construction Data
  • 1244 returned after construction surveys from
    10 schools
  • School response rates varied from 23 to 54
  • Full Sample Response Rate 40

Results, by School
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  • Evidence that Outcomes Corresponded to
    Expectations for 5 of 10 schools
  • Consistent evidence
  • Exceeds standard error or human error range
  • Magnitude large (excludes Murrieta)
  • Criterion is measurable, near-term impact, and so
  • Increases in awareness/caution
  • Long-term infrastructure program progress

Summary, Patterns from Evaluation
  • Among 5 sidewalk gap closure projects, 3 had
    evidence of success
  • Primary success was moving walking off
  • The two traffic signal projects increased vehicle
  • Crosswalk and crosswalk signal projects no
    evidence, likely because success is more caution,
    which is difficult to measure

Characteristic of Successful Projects
  • In areas with pre-existing non-motorized travel
    to school in unsafe conditions
  • Closing sidewalk gaps in areas where students
    walk is a good example
  • Controlling vehicle speed or increasing driver
    awareness / caution
  • Some projects were initial investment in
    infrastructure (e.g. 8 of blocks around Murrieta
    Elementary had complete sidewalk before SR2S.)

Federal SRTS program
  • Passed in August 2005
  • Dedicates 612 million to SRTS from 2005-2009
  • Distribution of funds to states based on student
  • Each state will receive at least 1 million/yr
  • http//

  • Creates SRTS program in every state DOT
  • Requires hiring of a full-time SRTS coordinator
  • Kristie Billiar, MN DOT
  • Targets grades K-8

  • Legislation also required development of
    clearinghouse/repository for SRTS activities
  • National Center for SRTS
  • Based at Highway Safety Research Center at
    UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Collaboration of many partners
  • Federal SRTS Task Force also required currently
    being formed

Focus on 5 Es
  • Engineering
  • Education
  • Enforcement
  • Encouragement
  • Evaluation
  • Each state must allocate at least 10 of total
    funds (but no more than 30) to
    non-infrastructure activities

Intervention point
Mediating factors
Moderating factors
  • Neighborhood safety
  • Traffic Safety
  • Household transportation options
  • Social/cultural norms
  • Attitudes
  • Socio-demographics

Distal evaluation point
Proximal evaluation point
Childrens travel behavior (trip
to school)
Change in health outcomes
Parental decision-making
Urban Form
Intervention point
Intermediate evaluation point
Increasing the focus on childrens school travel
in our communities
  • Policy/regulation
  • Model language in comprehensive/general plans,
    ordinances, etc

General Plan Language
  • Real Examples
  • City of Los Angeles has a bicycle plan as part of
    the transportation element of their general plan
    for establishing a bicycle network
  • Minneapolis Bicycle Plans
  • Minneapolis General Plan
  • Minneapolis will continue to build, maintain and
  • a pedestrian system which recognizes the
  • a network of private and public sidewalks which
  • the highest standards of connectivity and

Minneapolis General Plan
  • Require the most generous sidewalk width possible
    for public sidewalks located in high pedestrian
    volume areas, such as existing growth centers,
    neighborhood commercial areas, transit corridors
    and mixed use areas.
  • Ensure that all sidewalk standards meet ADA
    requirements as mandated by law.
  • Promote the development of design standards that
    produce high quality sidewalks for public and
    private sector development, with supporting
    street furniture (including street trees), ample
    widths for pedestrian traffic and transit
    loading, and the use of materials thatrequire
    acceptable levels of maintenance.
  • Encourage all new developments to situate their
    front doors so that they open onto the public

What is Missing?
  • Schools
  • Hypothetical Examples
  • Mention of school siting and pedestrian / bicycle
    transportation network near schools in community

Increasing the focus on childrens school travel
in our communities
  • 2) Comprehensive, continuous and coordinated
  • between the school district, the local
    municipalities and other stakeholders (e.g.,
    local health department)
  • addressing school siting, changing demographics
    in the community, externalities of school
    location, etc.

Increasing the focus on childrens school travel
in our communities
  • 3) Education/awareness the public, stakeholders
    in the community, etc.