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Does the physical environment support walking and biking to school? Results from the National Evaluation of the Walk to School Program

Lisa A Sutherland, PhD1, Dianne Ward, EdD2, Amber Vaughn, MPH, RD2, Sarah Ball, MPH2, Laura A. Linnan, ScD, CHES3, Lauren Marchetti, BFA4, Bill Hall, MA4, and James E. Emery, MPH5. (1) Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CB 7461, 4101McGavran-Greenberg, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, 919-966-8570, lsutherl@email.unc.edu, (2) Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1700 Airport Road, CB7426, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7426, (3) Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, UNC Chapel Hill School of Public Health, CB #7440, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7440, (4) Highway Safety Research Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 730 AIRPORT RD BOLIN CREEK CTR STE 300 / CB 3430, CB 7426, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3430, (5) Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of North Carolina, Campus Box# 7506, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7506

Because of the dramatic increase in childhood obesity, public health experts and groups are interested in promoting youth walking or biking to school. One key determinant that may affect active school travel is whether or not the environment surrounding the school supports walking or biking. As a part of the National Walk to School Evaluation Project, environmental assessments were conducted at 19 case study schools across the United States. Four domains were examined: 1) school zone, 2) major street crossings, 3) walking and 4) biking zones within a one-mile school radius. Assessments were conducted during either the student drop-off or pick-up times. School zones were clearly marked (100%), speed limits ranged from 15-25MPH, bike racks were available (100%), and safety patrols provided on school sites (60%). Major street crossings used by children required them to cross 2-3 lanes of traffic (range = 2-8), lacked crossing guards, and had continuous sidewalks usually on only one side of the street. Problems observed were heavy traffic (80%), speeding (65%), and large number of vehicle turns (60%). Factors that negatively impacted walking and biking safety that could be targets for intervention include, included narrow sidewalks, lack of adequate lighting, large number of traffic thru lanes, restricted sight distance, numerous intersections and driveways, and poor pavement.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Environment, Physical Activity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Political Economy of Health

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA