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Physical activity, including walking, can be a very healthy and sustainable mode of transportation. Children walking to their schools can get a lot of benefits from acquiring good habits that can be carried through their adulthood. Also, walking to school can reverse the trend of increasing obesity rates among children in the United States. This study is trying to identify the effect of urban form, presented in the distances between residences and schools, on the children’s behavior whether they walk to school or not depending on different urban forms around their schools. Two middle schools in Lincoln, Nebraska were selected as case studies using network analysis in Geographic Information System (GIS). These schools featured diverse socioeconomic status and urban form characteristics for their surrounded neighborhoods. A survey was conducted on a sample of one hundred and sixteen students from both schools. From our results, we found that 21.8% of the sample in Lefler School use active modes of transportation to their school located near the city center, where the school is built in a traditional neighborhood featuring grid street system and high connectivity. Only 6.7% of the sample in Scott School bike to school, and nobody walks to it, since Scott School is located in a late-modern neighborhood on the city’s fringes built in the 1990s, and features dead-end streets and low connectivity. We concluded that distances seem to increase in the latter neighborhood resulting in diminishing the number of students willing to walk or bike to their school. Other factors like parents’ and children’s perceptions about safety, traffic, convenience, and strangers might have an influence on determining the child’s behavior whether to walk to school or not.
Advisor: Yunwoo Nam