Lee, C., Yoon, J., & Zhu, X. (2017). From Sedentary to Active School Commute: Multi-Level Factors Associated with Travel Mode Shifts. Prev Med. 95(Suppl), S28-S36.
Previous research has examined personal, social, and environmental correlates of active commuting to school, but most were cross-sectional and mode choice studies. This exploratory case study utilized a retrospective natural experiment opportunity, where a group of students transferred to a new school, and therefore experienced changes in their home-to-school travel environments. It examined whether such changes led to mode shifts from sedentary (car or school bus) to active (walking and bicycling) and what factors were associated with those shifts. Retrospective parental survey data (n = 165, response rate = 46%) were collected in 2011 from a new elementary school that opened in 2010 in Austin, Texas. The survey asked about the child's school travel mode and parental perceptions of home-to-school travel environments before and after the transfer, as well as personal and social factors. Multivariate logistic regressions were used to predict the odds of shifting from sedentary to active modes, using personal, social, and physical environmental variables. Sixty-eight (41.2%) respondents reported a sedentary-to-active mode shift for school commuting. Such shifts were associated with changes in school travel environments (e.g., shorter travel distance, improved safety, and decreased availability of bike lanes/paths) and relevant programs/services (e.g., increase in walking-promotion programs, and decrease in school bus service due to shortened distances). Targeting the current sedentary mode users is important to bring health benefits through increased physical activity and environmental benefits from reduced automobile use. Sedentary-to-active mode shifts may be encouraged by providing walking-promotion programs and by reducing travel distances and safety threats en route to school.