The Link Between Transportation to School and Obesity Rates

A recent essay written by Susan Piedmont-Palladino, curator of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., titled "Walking the Walk" takes a look at why fewer children today are walking or biking to school, and what the main contributing factor to this decline is. Whereas riding a bike or walking to school was the norm forty years ago, today over 43% of school-aged children usually get a ride in a car. Palladino notes that how a child gets to school is key to explaining why presently "[n]early one in five elementary school kids is obese. Thirty years ago that number was only about one in 15."

Palladino attributes the decline to misguided road and intersection decisions resulting in an unsafe environment unsafe for children to bike or walk. This has led to a breakdown in communities and social infrastructure. Her essay includes a fascinating infographic that provides a snap shot of walking and biking to school in 1969, 1980 and 2009. But there is hope for the future. Encouraging trends in the U.S. that between 1988 and 2008 show that the number of 16 year olds getting their driver's licenses declined from 45% to 31%. Kids may be taking matters into their own hands and deciding, "no thanks, I'll walk."


Posted On: March 1, 2011