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Abstract: The disciplines of town planning and public health have investigated the connection between walking and neighbourhood form (e.g., Frank et al. 2003; Frumkin et al., 2004). In particular, Terri Pikora and her colleagues (2003) created a schema to classify a range of potential elements that may influence an adult’s decision to walk. By reviewing the health, urban planning and transport-related literature, they created a socio-ecological framework to classify a range of potential elements that may influence an adult’s decision to walk. This framework identifies four dimensions of neighbourhood form related to walking: functionality, safety, destinations and aesthetics. Functionality relates to the efficiency of movement provided by the layout of the streets and footpaths for its pedestrian users. Safety relates to those features that affect personal safety and traffic safety. Destinations relate to the availability and accessibility of neighbourhood facilities. Aesthetics describe the features that create “interesting and pleasing physical environments” (Pikora et al., 2003, p. 1696). Collectively, these four dimensions “collate all potentially relevant factors” (ibid, p. 1697) and provide a framework that could be applied to school travel research to assist in the understanding of the physical factors that affect walking. The applicability of these dimensions have been tested in studies and have been found to affect the likelihood of adults walking for transport or recreation (e.g., Hoehner et al., 2005; Pikora et al., 2006; Badland et al., 2009). These four dimensions, however, have yet to be applied to children’s school travels on foot. This paper aims to provide an empirically grounded understanding of Pikora et al.’s design dimensions in relation to children’s walks to and from school. It reviews school travel studies investigating neighbourhood design elements. Town planning and public health researchers have invested much time in analysing the factors that facilitate as well as constrain children’s walks to school. The resulting empirical evidence can be conveniently categorised into street functionality, traffic safety, school destination and natural aesthetics. Therefore, the following sections categorise the school travel literature to provide the empirical evidence needed to substantiate the use of these design dimensions in light of the school walk as well as to develop the argument that design features of walkable paths to and from school are invariably misunderstood.

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