Research Papers

A comparison of active school transportation across Canadian urban/suburban areas

Version 1
Date added June 18, 2019
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Category 2019 CARSP XXIX Calgary
Tags Research and Evaluation, Session 2B
Author/Auteur Rothman, Cloutier, Ling, Desrosiers-Gaudette, Hubka, Howard, Macpherson, Fuselli, Hagel, Winters
Stream/Volet Research and Evaluation

Slidedeck Presentation Only:



Background/Context: Active transportation to school, such as walking or biking, is an important source of physical activity for children. Various studies have reported on the prevalence of active school transportation (AST) and its built environment determinants. However, very few have used observational methods for AST measurement, and comparisons in AST across Canadian urban/suburban areas have not been done. This study presents preliminary findings from the Child Active Transportation Safety in the Environment (CHASE) study which examined AST using observational measurements in six urban/suburban areas across Canada.

Aims/Objectives: To compare proportions of children using AST to elementary schools across Canada and to identify and compare built environment determinants of AST in different locations.

Methods/Targets: Trained observers counted how children arrived to school at public elementary schools in Toronto (n = 76), Peel Region (Brampton and Mississauga, 71), Montreal (60), Laval (12), Calgary (125) and Vancouver (67). Proportions of those using AST were calculated using the total number of children observed as the denominator and excluding those arriving by school bus. Site surveys at the school and of the immediately surrounding roadways were also conducted. Maps were generated of proportions to show geographic patterns of AST within the cities. differences in the average proportion of AST will be compared and evaluated by city, as well as by urban (Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver) versus suburban (Peel Region and Laval) locations.

Results/Activities: Across all schools (n=411) we saw that the mean proportion was 50% (SD, 19.0) walking, 5% (SD, 5.2) biking, and 44% (SD, 18.8) being driving to school. Comparing across cities, mean proportions of AST were 65% (SD, 17.5) across schools in Toronto, 62% (SD, 13.5) in Vancouver, 70% (SD, 17.9) in Montreal, 54% (SD, 15.26) in Peel Region, 44% (SD, 14.0) in Calgary, and 36% (SD, 23.56) in Laval. The average proportions of AST were 57.1% and 51.4% in urban versus suburban areas respectively.

Discussion/Deliverables: Based on preliminary findings, there were notable differences in AST across different cities in Canada; however, there were no meaningful differences between suburban and urban areas, on average. Previous studies have identified built environment features related to AST, thus, differences found between locations may be attributed to different built environments surrounding schools.

Conclusions: Prevalence of AST among school children greatly varied across the six Canadian urban/suburban areas. Further analysis will be conducted to evaluate differences in mean AST prevalence between cities, and urban versus suburban areas to determine how the built environment factors around the schools relate to AST in different urban/suburban areas across Canada.