Active Travel to Schools

Promoting active travel to school: key recommendations

  • Local government schools within walking/cycling distance of homes

There is a need for provision of government schools of consistent high quality within residential areas so that children have good local access to quality education. This will discourage parents from shopping around for schools that are located further away from home and require their children to be driven there. There is evidence from Australia [1] and the UK [2] that freedom of choice of government schools is related to children travelling greater distances to school.    

  • Separated bicycle infrastructure

Concern about road safety is a key reason why parents do not allow their children to cycle to school [1, 3]. Children are more likely to cycle if there are separated bike paths [4] .

  • 30km/hr speed limits

If a pedestrian is truck by a vehicle travelling at 30km/h they are likely to suffer only minor injuries. However, if struck at 60km/h they are likely to be killed [5]. According to the World Health Organization [6] traffic speeds should be 30km/h or less in road environments that are shared between motorized vehicles, cyclist and pedestrians. Higher speeds show be allowed only where roads are designed to allow separation of vehicles, cyclist and pedestrians [6].

  • Provision of bike facilities at schools

Providing bike facilities at schools, including undercover and secure parking, racks, and pumps is likely to improve active travel to schools [7].

  • Preferred routes to school

Identification of preferred routes to school (e.g. with safer pedestrian/cyclist infrastructure, low traffic volume) are likely to encourage active transport to school [8].

  • Education for children and parents

The promotion of active transport to school can include educational opportunities in the classroom for children and online or via newsletters for parents. They can learn about how active transport can help them to meet the national physical activity guidelines [9] and the related health benefits. There may also be opportunities to learn about walking and cycling as sustainable forms of transport that can help lower carbon emissions and reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.

  • Training and skills

Countries that have high rates of active transport to school have implemented school-based skills training for cycling [10]. Australian research also indicates that cyclists will make safer drivers [11].

  • Ongoing encouragement for walking and cycling to school

Although good for encouraging walking and cycling at the time of the event, single events such as Walk to School month and Ride to School day are not the solution if parents return to driving their children once these events have ended [3]. There is a need for programs that provide sustained interest, for example through inter-class competition for active transport to and from school. Research also shows that children who walk and cycle to school are more focused and ready to learn.

  • Promotion of active travel to local destinations

There is a need to encourage active transport to other neighbourhood destinations and extra-curricular activities so that children who do not reside within walking/cycling distance to school can still feel engaged and benefit from this activity [1, 12]. School journeys represent only a small proportion of all journeys made [2]. An Australian study found that parents of primary school-aged children made 3-4 car trips per week to transport their children to places that were within walking distance of home [1].

  • Safety from crime

If road infrastructure supports walking and cycling by reducing road safety concerns, more adults and children will engage in active transport. As a result there will be greater social interaction on neighbourhood streets as well as informal surveillance. This may help to reduce parental perception of ‘stranger danger’ which tends to be a further barrier to children’s active transport [3, 13].


  1. Carver, A., A. Timperio, and D. Crawford, Parental chauffeurs: what drives their transport choice? Journal of Transport Geography, 2013. 26(0): p. 72-77.

  2. Hillman, M., Children’s rights and adults’ wrongs. Children’s Geographies, 2006. 4(1): p. 61-67.

  3. Carver, A., A. Timperio, and D. Crawford, Playing it safe: The influence of neighbourhood safety on children’s physical activity–A review. Health & Place, 2008. 14(2): p. 217-227.

  4. Carver, A., A.F. Timperio, and D.A. Crawford, Bicycles gathering dust rather than raising dust – Prevalence and predictors of cycling among Australian schoolchildren. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 2015. 18(5): p. 540-544.

  5. WHO Global status report on road safety. 2009.

  6. WHO Managing Speed. 2017.

  7. CPF, Active travel to school 2012 survey findings. 2012: Kensington, VIC.

  8. Chillon, P., A systematic review of interventions for promoting active transportation to school. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act, 2011. 8(1): p. 10.

  9. Australian Government Department of Health. Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. 2014 May 1999; Available from:

  10. Pucher, J. and R. Buehler, Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons from The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. Transport Reviews, 2008. 28(4): p. 495-528.

  11. Beanland, V. and L.J. Hansen, Do cyclists make better drivers? Associations between cycling experience and change detection in road scenes. Accident analysis and prevention, 2017. 106: p. 420-427.

  12. Smith, L., et al., Is active travel to non-school destinations associated with physical activity in primary school children? Preventive Medicine, 2012. 54(3–4): p. 224-228.

  13. Mullan, E., Do you think that your local area is a good place for young people to grow up? The effects of traffic and car parking on young people’s views. Health & Place, 2003. 9(4): p. 351-60.