ATLANTA - Fewer than half of American children who live close to school regularly walk or ride a bike to classes, according to a new study that highlights a dramatic shift toward car commuting by kids.
In 1969, about 90 percent of kids who lived within a mile of school walked or rode bikes to get there. In 2004, just 48 percent did that at least one day a week, the new study found.
The researchers didn’t ask why so many children were driven to school, but possible explanations include parental attitudes about exercise and concerns about safety, Martin said.
Also, many suburban and rural areas are built without sidewalks, good crosswalks or other safety features, several experts said.
Older urban communities have the most walking and biking children, at least partly because they were built with pedestrians in mind. But newer communities — like many in the South — were designed around the car, and may lack continuous sidewalks or safe crosswalks, Frank said.
Liz Hansen, a Lawrenceville, Ga., mother of a 19-year-old college student, recalled that when her son was young, the family lived just two blocks from his elementary school. But she usually drove him because she worried for his safety.
Later, her son — Ryan — lived less than a mile from his high school, but he didn’t like to walk or even ride the bus. “It was uncool,” she said.