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New Analysis Tracks 40 Years of Changes in How Kids Get to School

8:02 AM PDT on April 9, 2010

routes.png(Chart:
NCSRS/SRSNP)

The percentage of U.S. students between ages five and 14 who walk
or bike to school has remained stable over the past 15 years but remains
three-quarters below where it stood 40 years ago, according to a new
analysis of government data by two groups working on the Safe Routes to
School (SRtS) program.

Crunching numbers from the U.S. DOT's National Household Travel Survey, the
National Center for SRtS and the SRtS National Partnership concluded
that between 1969 and 2009, school transportation habits essentially
flipped -- with auto use rising from 12 percent of the student
population to 44 percent, and biking or walking going from a 48-percent
popularity rate with kids to just 13 percent.

Despite the fact that the share of students choosing to walk or
bike to school has remained around 12 percent since 1995, the SRtS
groups saw a silver lining to their findings: Their efforts appear to be
making headway when it comes to shorter trips from home to school. When
the data was restricted to students traveling less than one mile to
classes, 38 percent walked or biked last year.

“There
is a real opportunity to change the car culture and make school
campuses less congested if more of the parents who are driving shorter
distances let their children walk or bike to school, and those who
driving further distances let their children ride school buses,” Lauren
Marchetti, director of the National Center for SRtS, said in a
statement.

SRtS directs federal transportation dollars to help localities
build dedicated infrastructure for kids up to age 14 to walk or bike to
school. Members of Congress from both parties have endorsed legislation
that would expand the program to high schools as part of the next
six-year federal transport bill.

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