Do children walk where they bike? Exploring built environment correlates of children's walking and bicycling


  • Mika Ruchama Moran Technion, Israel Institute of Technology
  • Pnina Plaut Technion, Israel Institute of Technology
  • Orna Baron Epel the University of Haifa



walkability, bikeability, physical activity, health


Previous studies examined environmental correlates of children’s physical activity. While most of these studies used aggregated physical activity measures (i.e., overall physical activity, active travel), little is known about the contribution of specific environmental attributes to specific types of physical activity. This study examined associations between GIS-based environmental measures and children’s self-reported walking and bicycling. The study area included “traditional neighborhoods” (N=4), characterized by high-density, land-use mix and grid-street network, and “suburban neighborhoods” (N=3), characterized by low-density, land-use segregation, and cul-de-sac streets. Data on children’s physical activity and psychosocial and socio-demographic factors were obtained through a school survey (of fifth and sixth graders) (N=573). Urban-form measures (intersection density, residential density, and built coverage) were significantly positively associated with walking and negatively associated with bicycling. These associations remained significant after controlling for social, intra- and inter-personal factors. These findings suggest that certain environments may encourage children’s walking and hinder their bicycling at the same time (and vice versa) and therefore raise the need for a more clear distinction between child-related walkability and bikeablilty.


Audirac, I. and Shermyen, A.H. 1994. An evaluation of neotraditional design's social prescription: postmodern placebo or remedy for suburban malaise? Journal of Planning Education and Research 13(3): 161-173.

Badland, H. and Schofield, G. 2005. Transport, urban design, and physical activity: an evidence-based update. Transportation Research D 10(3): 177-196.

Boarnet, M.G., Anderson, C.L., Day, K., McMillan, T. and Alfonzo, M. 2005. Evaluation of the California Safe Routes to School legislation: urban form changes and children’s active transportation to school. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 28(2): 134-140.

Brage, S., Wedderkopp, N., Ekelund, U., Franks, P.W.,

Wareham, N.J., Andersen, L.B. and Froberg, K. 2004. Features of the Metabolic Syndrome Are Associated With Objectively Measured Physical Activity and Fitness in Danish Children The European Youth Heart Study (EYHS). Diabetes care 27(9): 2141-2148.

Braza, M., Shoemaker, W. and Seeley, A. 2004. Neighborhood design and rates of walking and biking to elementary school in 34 California communities. American Journal of Health Promotion 19(2): 128-136.

Calthorpe, P. 1993. The next American metropolis: Ecology, community, and the American dream. Princeton Architectural Press.

Carver, A., Salmon, J., Campbell, K., Baur, L., Garnett, S. and

Crawford, D. 2005. How do perceptions of local neighborhood relate to adolescents' walking and cycling? American Journal of Health Promotion 20(2): 139-147.

Cerin, E., Leslie, E., Toit, L.d., Owen, N. and Frank, L.D. 2007. Destinations that matter: associations with walking for transport. Health and place 13(3): 713-724.

Cervero, R. 1998. The transit metropolis: A global inquiry. Island press.

Cervero, R. and Kockelman, K. 1997. Travel demand and the 3Ds: density, diversity, and design. Transportation Research D 2(3): 199-219.

Davison, K.K. and Lawson, C.T. 2006. Do attributes in the physical environment influence children's physical activity? A review of the literature. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 3(1): 19.

De Meester, F., Van Dyck, D., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Deforche, B., Sallis, J.F. and Cardon, G. 2012. Active living neighborhoods: is neighborhood walkability a key element for Belgian adolescents? BMC Public Health 12(1): 7.

De Vries, S.I., Hopman-Rock, M., Bakker, I., Hirasing, R.A. and Van Mechelen, W. 2010. Built environmental correlates of walking and cycling in Dutch urban children: results from the SPACE study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7(5): 2309-2324.

Dellinger, A.M. and Staunton, C.E. 2002. Barriers to children walking and biking to school--United States, 1999.

Duany, A. and Plater-Zyberk, E. 1992. The second coming of the American small town. Wilson Quarterly 16(1): 3-51.

Ducheyne, F., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Lenoir, M., Spittaels, H. and Cardon, G. 2013. Children's cycling skills: Development of a test and determination of individual and environmental correlates. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 50: 688-97.

Edwards, P. and Tsouros, A.D. 2008. A healthy city is an active city: A physical activity planning guide. World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe.

Ekelund, U., Anderssen, S., Froberg, K., Sardinha, L.B., Andersen, L.B. and Brage, S. 2007. Independent associations of physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness with metabolic risk factors in children: the European youth heart study. Diabetologia 50(9): 1832-1840.

Ekelund, U., Brage, S., Froberg, K., Harro, M., Anderssen, S.A., Sardinha, L.B., Riddoch, C. and Andersen, L.B. 2006. TV viewing and physical activity are independently associated with metabolic risk in children: the European Youth Heart Study. PLoS Medicine 3(12): e488.

Ewing, R., Schroeer, W. and Greene, W. 2004. School location and student travel analysis of factors affecting mode choice. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board 1895(1): 55-63.

Ferreira, I., Van Der Horst, K., Wendel‐Vos, W., Kremers, S., Van Lenthe, F. and Brug, J. 2007. Environmental correlates of physical activity in youth–a review and update. Obesity Reviews 8(2): 129-154.

Frank, L.D. and Pivo, G. 1994. Impacts of mixed use and density on utilization of three modes of travel: single-occupant vehicle, transit, and walking. Transportation Research Record 1466: 44-52.

Frank, L., Engelke, P. and Schmid, T. 2003. Health and community design: The impact of the built environment on physical activity. Island Press.

Frumkin, H., Frank, L. and Jackson, R.J. 2004. Urban sprawl and public health: Designing, planning, and building for healthy communities. Island Press.

Handy, S. 2004. Community design and physical activity: what do we know? And what don’t we know. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Conference Obesity and the Built Environment: Improving Public Health through Community Design, Washington DC, May 24–26, 2004.

Heath, G.W., Brownson, R.C., Kruger, J., Miles, R., Powell, K.E. and Ramsey, L.T. 2006. The effectiveness of urban design and land use and transport policies and practices to increase physical activity: a systematic review. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 3: S55.

Holt, N., Spence, J., Sehn, Z. and Cutumisu, N. 2008. Neighborhood and developmental differences in children's perceptions of opportunities for play and physical activity. Health and Place 14(1): 2-14.

Humpel, N., Owen, N. and Leslie, E. 2002, "Environmental factors associated with adults’ participation in physical activity: a review", American Journal of Preventive Medicine 22(3): 188-199.

Larsen, K., Gilliland, J., Hess, P., Tucker, P., Irwin, J. and He, M. 2009. The influence of the physical environment and sociodemographic characteristics on children's mode of travel to and from school. American Journal of Public Health 99(3): 520.

Laxer, R.E. and Janssen, I. 2013. The proportion of youths' physical inactivity attributable to neighbourhood built environment features. International Journal of Health Geographies 12(1): 31.

Lee, C. and Moudon, A.V. 2006. The 3Ds R: Quantifying land use and urban form correlates of walking. Transportation Research D 11(3): 204-215.

Loptson, K., Muhajarine, N. and Ridalls, T. 2012. Walkable for whom? Examining the role of the built environment on the neighbourhood-based physical activity of children. Canadian Journal of Public Health 103(9): eS29-eS34.

Manaugh, K. and El-Geneidy, A. 2011. Validating walkability indices: How do different households respond to the walkability of their neighborhood? Transportation Research D 16(4): 309-315.

McConville, M.E., Rodríguez, D.A., Clifton, K., Cho, G. and Fleischhacker, S. 2011. Disaggregate land uses and walking. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 40(1): 25-32.

McCormack, G.R., Rock, M., Toohey, A.M. and Hignell, D. 2010. Characteristics of urban parks associated with park use and physical activity: a review of qualitative research. Health and place 16(4): 712-726.

Mecredy, G., Pickett, W. and Janssen, I. 2011. Street connectivity is negatively associated with physical activity in Canadian youth. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 8(8): 3333-3350.

Omer, I., Rofe, Y., Lerman, Y., Cohen Y. 2012. A model to evaluate pedestrian volume in an urban environment. Presented at the Annual Conference of The Israeli Geographical Association, December 9-11, 2012.

Owen, N., Humpel, N., Leslie, E., Bauman, A. and Sallis, J.F. 2004. Understanding environmental influences on walking: review and research agenda. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 27(1): 67-76.

Page, A.S., Cooper, A.R., Griew, P. and Jago, R. 2010. Independent mobility, perceptions of the built environment and children's participation in play, active travel and structured exercise and sport: the PEACH Project. International journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity 7(1): 17.

Parsons, T.J., Power, C., Logan, S. and Summerbell, C.D. 1999. Childhood predictors of adult obesity: a systematic review. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders 23(8): S1-107.

Raitakan, O.T., Porkka, K.V.K., Taimela, S., Telama, R., Räsänen, L. and Vllkari, J.S. 1994. Effects of persistent physical activity and inactivity on coronary risk factors in children and young adults the cardiovascular risk in young Finns study. American Journal of Epidemiology 140(3): 195-205.

Reed, J.A., Price, A.E., Grost, L. and Mantinan, K. 2012. Demographic Characteristics and Physical Activity Behaviors in Sixteen Michigan Parks. Journal of Community Health 37(2): 507-512.

Roemmich, J.N., Epstein, L.H., Raja, S. and Yin, L. 2007. The neighborhood and home environments: disparate relationships with physical activity and sedentary behaviors in youth. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 33(1): 29-38.

Roemmich, J.N., Epstein, L.H., Raja, S., Yin, L., Robinson, J. and Winiewicz, D. 2006. Association of access to parks and recreational facilities with the physical activity of young children. Preventive Medicine 43(6): 437-441.

Saelens, B.E. and Handy, S.L. 2008. Built environment correlates of walking: a review. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 40(7): S550.

Sallis, J. 2008. Angels in the details: comment on: "The relationship between destination proximity, destination mix and physical activity behaviors". Preventive Medicine 14(1): 6-7.

Sallis, J.F. and Glanz, K. 2006. The role of built environments in physical activity, eating, and obesity in childhood. The Future of Children 16(1): 89-108.

Sallis, J.F., Prochaska, J.J. and Taylor, W.C. 2000. A review of correlates of physical activity of children and adolescents. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 32(5): 963-975.

Sirard, J.R., Ainsworth, B.E., McIver, K.L. and Pate, R.R. 2005. Prevalence of active commuting at urban and suburban elementary schools in Columbia, SC. American Journal of Public Health 95(2): 236-237.

Staunton, C.E., Hubsmith, D. and Kallins, W. 2003. Promoting safe walking and biking to school: the Marin County success story. Journal Information 93(9): 1431-1434.

Sugiyama, T. and Ward Thompson, C. 2008. Associations between characteristics of neighbourhood open space and older people's walking. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening 7(1): 41-51.

Timperio, A., Ball, K., Salmon, J., Roberts, R., Giles-Corti, B., Simmons, D., Baur, L.A. and Crawford, D. 2006. Personal, family, social, and environmental correlates of active commuting to school. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 30(1): 45-51.

Timperio, A., Crawford, D., Telford, A. and Salmon, J. 2004. Perceptions about the local neighborhood and walking and cycling among children. Preventive Medicine 38(1): 39-47.

Titze, S., Stronegger, W.J., Janschitz, S. and Oja, P. 2008. Association of built-environment, social-environment and personal factors with bicycling as a mode of transportation among Austrian city dwellers. Preventive Medicine 47(3): 252-259.

Trapp, G., Giles-Corti, B., Christian, H., Bulsara, M., Timperio, A., McCormack, G. and Villanueva, K. 2011. On your bike! A cross-sectional study of the individual, social and environmental correlates of cycling to school. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 8: 123.

Tremblay, M.S. and Willms, J.D. 2003. Is the Canadian childhood obesity epidemic related to physical inactivity? International Journal of Obesity 27(9): 1100-1105.

Van Dyck, D., Cardon, G., Deforche, B. and De Bourdeaudhuij, I. 2009. Lower neighbourhood walkability and longer distance to school are related to physical activity in Belgian adolescents. Preventive Medicine 48(6): 516-518.

Veitch, J., Salmon, J. and Ball, K. 2010. Individual, social and physical environmental correlates of children's active free-play: a cross-sectional study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 7(11): 1-10.

Wen, L.M., Kite, J., Merom, D. and Rissel, C. 2009. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 6: 15.

Winters, M., Brauer, M., Setton, E.M. and Teschke, K. 2010. Built environment influences on healthy transportation choices: bicycling versus driving. Journal of Urban Health 87(6): 969-993.




How to Cite

Moran, M. R., Plaut, P., & Baron Epel, O. (2015). Do children walk where they bike? Exploring built environment correlates of children’s walking and bicycling. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 9(2).