Correlates of active school transportation during the COVID-19 pandemic: A national study


Introduction: Active school transportation (AST) is an important source of physical activity; however, the COVID-19 pandemic may have altered children's engagement in AST. We explored correlates of children's AST during the second wave of COVID-19 (December 2020). Methods: We contracted a market survey firm (Léger) to collect data online from a national sample of parents of 7- to 12-year-olds (N=2,262). Our questionnaire assessed parents' travel mode to work, their child's school travel mode, independent mobility, and constructs representing all levels of influence of the social-ecological model. Using parent-reported postal codes, we linked data on weather and neighbourhood walkability [Canadian Active Living Environment index (CAN-ALE)]. We used gender-stratified binary logistic regressions to predict odds of engaging in AST while controlling for household income. Results: There was a graded positive relationship between walkability quintiles and odds of AST (boys: ptrend=0.004; girls: ptrend=0.011). Children with greater independent mobility (boys: OR=1.35; 95% CI=1.22-1.49; girls: OR=1.22; CI=1.10-1.36) and whose parents actively traveled to work (boys: OR=6.47; CI=4.00-10.45; girls: OR=5.10; CI=2.15-8.23) were more likely to engage in AST. Each degree Celsius increase in average temperature during data collection was associated with higher odds of AST (OR=1.06; CI=1.01-1.10 for both genders). Boys with a disability/chronic condition had lower odds of AST (OR=0.45; CI=0.24-0.83). Parental concerns about COVID-19 were not associated with AST. Discussion: Our findings suggest that interventions promoting active transportation to work may also increase children's AST. Higher independent mobility and walkability may enable AST. Researchers should examine how to support AST for children with disabilities.

Acknowledgments: This study was funded by a grant-in-aid from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Richard Larouche holds a Board of Governors Research Chair from the University of Lethbridge