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Am J Prev Med. 2007 Oct;33(4):269-75.

Estimating the proportion of children who can walk to school.

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  • 1Chronic Disease, Injury, and Environmental Epidemiology Section, Epidemiology Branch, Division of Public Health, Georgia Department of Human Resources, 2 Peachtree Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA.



Walking to school can be an important contributor to the daily physical activity of children. However, little is known about the percentage of children who could reasonably be expected to walk to school. The purpose of this study was to estimate the percentage of children in Georgia who live within a safe and reasonable walking distance from school and to identify demographic, school, and neighborhood connectivity characteristics associated with the potential to walk to school.


Geographic information systems techniques were used to estimate the number of school-age children living 1 mile and 0.5 mile from public schools in Georgia. Potential walkers were estimated by dividing the number of children living in the specified distances from school in the 2000 U.S. Census by the number of children enrolled at the school in the 1999-2000 school year. Safety parameters were based on posted speed limits.


The percentage of potential walkers ranged from 1% to 51% depending on grade group and parameters of distance and safety. Using preferred parameters of distance and safety we estimated that 6% of elementary school students (K-5), 11% of middle school students (6 to 8), and 6% of high school students could walk to school. High population density, small enrollment size, and high street connectivity were associated with higher percentages of potential walkers.


While few children could reasonably be expected to walk, this does not reduce the value of walking to school. Increasing the percentage of students who walk will require both educational efforts and changes to the built environment.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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