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Soc Sci Med. 2005 Jan;60(1):61-9.

Geographies of inequality: child pedestrian injury and walking school buses in Auckland, New Zealand.

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Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, Canada V5A 1S6.


In the face of mounting concern at traffic congestion in the vicinity of schools and the associated risks of child pedestrian injury, the 'walking school bus' (WSB) idea has been rapidly adopted within metropolitan Auckland. WSBs involve volunteers guiding children to and from school in an orderly manner following established walking routes. This paper reports on a survey of the 34 Auckland primary schools which had adopted the scheme by November 2002. Despite rates of child pedestrian injury being highest in areas of socio-economic deprivation, our survey found WSB developments highly concentrated in low deprivation neighbourhoods. The inequitable socio-spatial distribution of WSBs in Auckland suggests that the ability to respond to road safety issues is closely correlated with socio-economic privilege. While our respondents identified a number of individual and community health benefits accruing from WSBs, we conclude that the initiative has a limited ability to address public health challenges originating within an inequitable and car-dominated urban political system.

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