Travel to School Patterns and Perceptions of Walking to School in New Zealand Adolescents Before Versus During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Mandic, S
García Bengoechea, E
Coppell, KJ
Keall, M
Smith, M
Hopkins, D
Sandretto, S
Wilson, G
Kidd, G
Flaherty, C
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Journal Article
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Elsevier BV

Background: In many countries, adolescents' active school travel rates were declining prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequent changes in active school travel have not yet been investigated systematically. This study compared school travel modes and adolescents' perceptions of walking to school 5–6 years before (period 1 (P1)) and 1–2 years after (period 2 (P2)) the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: Adolescents from Dunedin, New Zealand, completed an online questionnaire about their school travel and perceptions of walking to school in 2014–2015 (P1; n = 1463; 55.2% female) and 2021–2022 (P2; n = 1421; 44.4% female). Home-to-school distance was calculated using Geographic Information Systems. Data analysis included Chi-square tests, logistic regression and ordinary least squares regression.

Results: The odds of adolescents walking to school ‘all the time’ or ‘most of the time’ versus ‘never’, ‘sometimes’ or ‘rarely’ were significantly lower in P2 compared with P1. The odds following the pandemic onset were only 0.58 of those pre-pandemic (95% CI: 0.43–0.79), controlling for differences between the two samples. During the same period the proportion of adolescents living in households with ≥2 vehicles increased from 69% to 78%. Adolescents' attitudes towards walking to school indicated significantly lower intentions and higher perceived barriers to walking to school in P2 versus P1, although differences were smaller among those living within walking distance to school.

Conclusions: These findings highlight the need for renewed and extended efforts from cross-sectoral actors to support active school transport among adolescents during COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts and in future similar events.

4206 Public Health , 42 Health Sciences , Pediatric , 1117 Public Health and Health Services , 1205 Urban and Regional Planning , 1507 Transportation and Freight Services , 3304 Urban and regional planning , 3509 Transportation, logistics and supply chains , 4206 Public health
Journal of Transport and Health, ISSN: 2214-1405 (Print), Elsevier BV, 36, 101803-101803. doi: 10.1016/j.jth.2024.101803
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© 2024 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (