Associations between parents' perception of traffic danger, the built environment and walking to school

L. Rothman, Ron Buliung, Teresa To, Colin Macarthur, Alison Macpherson, Andrew Howard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Walking to school is an important source of physical activity for children. Parents are the key decision makers regarding school travel mode, with parents׳ perceptions of traffic safety being an important factor in the decision making process. The study examines the relationships between perceptions of traffic danger, walking to school and built environment features.
A cross-sectional parent survey was conducted in 2011, in 20 elementary schools in Toronto, Canada. Built environment data from municipal sources were mapped onto school attendance boundaries developed by the school board which identified household eligibility for attendance at each school. Repeated-measures logistic regression was used to examine the associations between frequent walking to school (4–5 times/weekly) and parents׳ perceptions of traffic danger along the school route and at the school site, and between perceptions of high levels of school route traffic danger and social and built environment variables.
The response rate was 38% with 733 surveys returned. The odds of frequent walking to school were 47% lower with high perceived school route traffic danger, but walking was unrelated to perceived school site traffic danger. Higher perceived route danger was associated with observation of dangerous midblock crossings near schools (OR 1.97), higher flashing beacon density (OR 1.31) and lower dead-end road (OR 0.70), collector road (OR 0.80) traffic light (OR 0.80) and school crossing guard densities (OR 0.89).
High perceived school route but not school site danger, was related to frequent walking to school and to specific built environment features. Parents׳ perception of danger is not always in accordance with objective measures of traffic danger. Safe road design along school routes is important to influence traffic safety and walking to school; however, safe road design must also be directed to the immediate school environment where collision densities are high.
Keywords: Walking, Schools, Child, Traffic danger, Parent perception, Built environment
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-335
JournalJournal of Transport & Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Walking
  • Schools
  • Child
  • Traffic danger
  • Parent perception
  • Built environment


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