Open Access Research article

A cross-sectional examination of socio-demographic and school-level correlates of children’s school travel mode in Ottawa, Canada

Richard Larouche1*, Jean-Philippe Chaput12, Geneviève Leduc1, Charles Boyer1, Priscilla Bélanger1, Allana G LeBlanc1, Michael M Borghese1 and Mark S Tremblay12

Author Affiliations

1 Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, 401 Smyth Road, Room R242, Ottawa, ON K1H 8 L1, Canada

2 Department of Pediatrics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:497  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-497

Published: 23 May 2014



Active school transport (AST) is an important source of children’s daily physical activity (PA). However, decreasing rates of AST have been reported in multiple countries during the last decades. The purpose of the present study was to examine the socio-demographic and school-level correlates of AST.


A stratified sample of children (N = 567, mean age = 10.0 years; 57.8% female) was recruited in the Ottawa area. Four sources of data were used for analyses: 1) child questionnaire including questions on school travel mode and time; 2) parent questionnaire providing information on household socio-demographic characteristics; 3) school administrator survey assessing school policies and practices pertaining to PA; and 4) school site audit performed by the study team. Generalized linear mixed models were used to identify socio-demographic and school-level correlates of AST while controlling for school clustering.


Individual factors associated with higher odds of AST were male gender (OR = 1.99; 95% CI = 1.30-3.03), journey time <5 minutes vs. >15 minutes (OR = 2.26; 95% CI = 1.17-4.37), and 5–15 minutes vs. >15 minutes (OR = 2.27; 95% CI = 1.27-4.03). Children were more likely to engage in AST if school administrators reported that crossing guards were employed (OR = 2.29; 95% CI = 1.22-4.30), or if they expressed major or moderate concerns about crime in the school neighbourhood (OR = 3.34; 95% CI = 1.34-8.32). In schools that identified safe routes to school and where traffic calming measures were observed, children were much more likely to engage in AST compared to schools without these features (OR = 7.87; 95% CI = 2.85-21.76). Moreover, if only one of these features was present, this was not associated with an increased likelihood of AST.


These findings suggest that providing crossing guards may facilitate AST. Additionally, there was a synergy between the identification of safe routes to school and the presence of traffic calming measures, suggesting that these strategies should be used in combination.

Active travel; Safe routes to school; Social ecological models; School policies; Built environment