Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Hill, Michael R. 1985. “Walking Straight Home from School: Pedestrian Route Choice by Young Children.” Transportation Research Record (National Research Council—Transportation Research Board) 959: 51-55.


Copyright 1985 Michael R. Hill


Unobtrusive observations of 50 randomly selected pedestrian youngsters were made after the children had been dismissed from elementary schoois in Lincoln, Nebraska. The results demonstrate that (a) 88 percent of the students walked directly to a residential dwelling: (b) 98 percent chose a least-distance path from their school to their residence or other destination: (c) the majority of students (62 percent), by choosing to minimize distance, found their route choices reduced to a single route option:' and (d) when faced with the choice between two or more distance-minimizing routes, the children in this study selected structurally more complex routes than did adults. All the children in this study were among the first students to leave school after class and walked home unaccompanied. The children appear to follow the admonition to come straight home from school, but in so doing they are generally limited to a single shortest-distance option. Such children thus have a much constrained opportunity for environmental exploration. When faced with the chance to choose a more interesting and spatially complex route while still adhering to the norm to come straight home, the complex route"was generally selected. Because of the small sample size in this study, these findings are best considered suggestive rather than definitive.