The importance of the local school environment in encouraging active school travel.

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Theses / Dissertations
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Master of Science
University of Canterbury
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McCone, Emma Rose

School travel is a major aspect of a young person’s everyday activity. The relationship between the built environment that youth experience on their way to and from school, influences a number of factors including their development, health and wellbeing. This is especially important in low income areas where the built environment is often poorer, but the need for it to be high quality and accessible is greater.

This study focusses on the community of Aranui, a relatively low income suburb in Christchurch, New Zealand. It pays particular attention to Haeata Community Campus, a state school of just under 800 pupils from year one through to year thirteen (ages 5-18). The campus opened in 2017 following the closure of four local schools (three primary and one secondary), as part of the New Zealand Government’s Education Renewal scheme following the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010/11. Dedicated effort toward understanding the local built environment, and subsequent travel patterns has been argued to be insufficiently considered.

The key focus of this research was to understand the importance of the local environment in encouraging active school travel. The present study combines geospatial analysis, quantitative survey software Maptionnaire, and statistical models to explore the features of the local environment that influence school travel behaviour.

Key findings suggest that distance to school and parental control are the most significant predictors of active transport in the study sample. Almost 75% of students live within two kilometres of the school, yet less than 40% utilise active transport. Parental control may be the key contributing factor to the disproportionate private vehicle use. However, active school travel is acknowledged as a complex process that is the product of many individual, household, and local environment factors.

To see increased active transport uptake, the local environment needs to be of greater quality. Meaning that the built environment should be improved to be youth friendly, with greater walkability and safe, accessible cycling infrastructure.

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