Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Individual, social and physical environmental correlates of ‘never’ and ‘always’ cycling to school among 10 to 12 year old children living within a 3.0 km distance from school

Fabian Ducheyne*, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij, Heleen Spittaels and Greet Cardon

Author Affiliations

Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Ghent University, Watersportlaan 2, 9000, Gent, Belgium

For all author emails, please log on.

International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:142  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-142

Published: 10 December 2012

Abstract

Background

Cycling to school has been identified as an important target for increasing physical activity levels in children. However, knowledge about correlates of cycling to school is scarce as many studies did not make a distinction between walking and cycling to school. Moreover, correlates of cycling to school for those who live within a distance, that in theory would allow cycling to school, stay undiscovered. Therefore, this study examined individual, social and physical environmental correlates of never and always cycling to/from school among 10 to 12 year old Belgian children living within a 3.0 km distance from school.

Methods

850 parents completed a questionnaire to assess personal, family, behavioral, cognitive, social and physical environmental factors related to the cycling behavior of their children. Parents indicated on a question matrix how many days a week their child (1) walked, (2) cycled, was (3) driven by car or (4) public transport to and from school during fall, winter and spring. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the correlates.

Results

Overall, 39.3% of children never cycled to school and 16.5% of children always cycled to school. Children with high levels of independent mobility and good cycling skills perceived by their parents were more likely to always cycle to school (resp. OR 1.06; 95% CI 1.04-1.15 and OR 1.08; 95% CI 1.01-1.16) and less likely to never cycle to school (resp. OR 0.84; 95% CI 0.78-0.91 and OR 0.77; 95% CI 0.7-0.84). Children with friends who encourage them to cycle to school were more likely to always cycle to school (OR 1.08; 95% CI 1.01-1.15) and less likely to never cycle to school (OR 0.9; 95% CI 0.83-1.0). In addition, children with parents who encourage them to cycle to school were less likely to never cycle to school (OR 0.78; 95% CI 0.7-0.87). Regarding the physical environmental factors, only neighborhood traffic safety was significantly associated with cycling: i.e., children were more likely to always cycle to school if neighborhood traffic was perceived as safe by their parents (OR 1.18; 95% CI 1.07-1.31).

Conclusion

Individual, social and physical environmental factors were associated with children’s cycling behavior to/from school. However, the contribution of the physical environment is limited and highlights the fact that interventions for increasing cycling to school should not focus solely on the physical environment.

Keywords:
Cycling; Children; Correlates; Distance