Making the Right Decision for Our Children’s Future: Parents’ Perceptions of Active School Travel in Disadvantaged Neighborhoods

Key Takeaways:

  • Increased physical activity, socializing with peers, and developing life-long healthy habits were among the positive effects described by parents whose children walk or bike to school.
  • Parents interviewed expressed concerns about safety within their neighborhoods including concerns about criminal activity, and traffic safety, and cited perceived safety as a barrier to allowing their children to walk or bike to school.
  • Residents of the neighborhoods that identified as not being from the area, such as families that recently immigrated to Sweden, or not knowing people within the neighborhood were more likely to express concerns about safety and feel a sense of distrust towards their neighbors discouraging their children from walking or biking to school.
  • Parents cited distance to school, lack of bicycle infrastructure, and lack of confidence when riding a bicycle as reasons why their children may not ride a bike to school.
  • Parents reported that they were more likely to allow their children to walk or bike to school if they traveled with them or if their child had a cell phone or GPS tracking device.


  • Safe Routes to School programs address many of the common safety concerns often cited by parents. Activities such as adult-led walking and biking groups, monitoring and improving the safety of designated routes to and from school, and providing bicycle and pedestrian education can address parents’ safety concerns and encourage more walking and biking to school.  
  • Safe Routes to School coordinators should be aware of less visible dynamics of feelings of community trust and connection that can impact parents’ perception of safety. Encouragement activities like walking school buses and community-informed planning efforts can help to build a greater sense of community.  


  • This study interviewed parents (n=12) of children who engaged in varying levels of Active Travel to School, living in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Sweden to understand their perceptions and level of comfort of their child walking or biking to school. In Sweden, disadvantaged neighborhoods refer to neighborhoods with low-income individuals, low-education populations, areas of low rates of employment, or areas with high crime rates.


Nyström, Michelle, Malin Henriksson, Anna-Karin Lindqvist, and Stina Rutberg. “Making the Right Decision for Our Children’s Future: Parents’ Perceptions of Active School Travel in Disadvantaged Neighborhoods.” Journal of Transport & Health 30 (May 2023): 101617.

Snapshot of research front page
filed under