Walking is a healthy activity that should be encouraged in children, but when it comes to traveling to school in inner-city neighborhoods, how do kid’s safety concerns differ from those of their parents? The answers reveal that efforts to facilitate walking to promote public health often are misplaced because they fail to take into account the experiences and perceptions of the children themselves, especially in inner-city neighborhoods. A 2016 study conducted with 135 fifth-graders in the City Heights neighborhood in San Diego found that crime, gangs, drugs and other social ills encountered on school travel routes were of greater concern for children than built-environment issues, such as broken sidewalks, fast-moving cars, and inadequate traffic infrastructure. Meanwhile, researchers, policymakers, and even parents tend to focus disproportionately on elements of the built environment as barriers to walking.
Walking to School: The Experiences of Children in City Heights