Neighbourhood Analyses for Fostering Active and Safe Routes to School: A Comparative Case Study of Four Elementary Schools in Kingston, Ontario
Chris, E. Laura
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This report focused on the built environment and socio-demographics of the areas surrounding four elementary schools with contrasting neighbourhood street networks and socioeconomic profiles. Using the qualitative method of comparative case study research (Yin, 2009), the selected school neighbourhoods allowed for the evaluation of high and low connectivity as well as high and low socioeconomic status (SES) as related to active school travel. An empirical literature review provided the basis for primary data collection in this study and built the researcher’s awareness of the determinants of active school travel. The integration of neighbourhood profile analyses, observational analyses and in-depth interviews formed a comprehensive picture of the factors influencing modal choice in the journey to school at four elementary schools in Kingston, Ontario. Findings revealed that the proportion of active commuters at the selected schools ranged from 43% to 95%. These results are exemplary when compared to both national and provincial data. Consistent with empirical literature, this study found that both the built environment and SES are associated with modal choice, with high connectivity and low SES presumed to be more conducive to active school travel. Observational and interview data suggests SES as a stronger predictor of whether a child will use active travel modes to school. A lack of school-based active school travel programs and certain neighbourhood built environment features formed the foundation for recommendations to increase active and safe travel at the selected elementary schools. Implementing modifications that cover the four “E’s” – engineering, enforcement, education and encouragement – could greatly improve active school travel in Kingston. Most notably, installing speed humps around the schools, lowering neighbourhood speed limits, incorporating active school travel education in classroom activities, encouraging participation in active school travel by marketing “Walk and Roll Wednesdays,” and adopting the Active Transportation Charter, would be instrumental improvements.