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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Johnny Walks to School - Does Jane? Sex Differences in Children's Active Travel to School


Communities are traditionally built with one transportation mode and user in mind—the adult automobile driver. Recently, however, there has been an international focus on the trip to school as an opportunity to enhance children’s independent active travel. Several factors must be considered when designing programs to promote walking and bicycling. This paper examined the influence of child sex on caregivers’ decisions about travel mode choice to school.

Caregivers of children in grades three to five from ten California Safe Routes to School communities were surveyed on their child’s normal travel mode to school and factors that determined travel decisions. Results indicate that the odds of walking and bicycling to school are 40 percent lower in girls than boys; however, this relationship is significantly moderated by the caregiver’s own walking behavior. The findings suggest that programs that focus on increasing children’s active travel to school should consider multiple influences on health behavior, including the neighborhood physical activity of parents.

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