How do perceptions of local neighborhood relate to adolescents' walking and cycling?

Alison Carver, Jo Salmon, Karen Campbell, Louise Baur, Sarah Garnett, David Crawford
American Journal of Health Promotion: AJHP 2005, 20 (2): 139-47

PURPOSE: To examine how perceptions of the local neighborhood relate to adolescents' walking and cycling.

DESIGN: Exploratory cross-sectional study.

SETTING: Birth cohort from the Nepean Hospital, Sydney, Australia.

SUBJECTS: Three hundred forty-seven adolescents (79.1% response rate; 49.6% boys; mean age = 13.0 +/- 0.2 years) and their parents.

MEASURES: Self-report and parental-report questionnaires.

RESULTS: Multiple linear regressions, adjusted for level of maternal education, revealed that boys who reported having many peers to hang out with locally, cycled for recreation (beta = 0.242, p = .006) or for transport (beta = 0.141, p = .046) more often, and walked for transport for longer (beta = 0.129, p = .024) on weekdays. For girls this variable was related to cycling for recreation on weekends (beta = 0.164, p = .006) and walking to school (beta = 0.118, p = .002). Adolescents who waved/talked to neighbors walked for transport more often (boys, beta = 0.149, p = .037; girls, beta = 0.119, p = .012). Girls who perceived local roads to be safe spent more time walking for transport on weekdays (beta = 0.183, p = .007) and for exercise on weekends (beta = 0.184, p = .034). Parents' perception of heavy traffic was negatively associated with boys' walking for transport (beta = -0.138, p = .037) and many aspects of girls' walking and cycling.

CONCLUSION: Social interaction and road safety may be important predictors of adolescents' walking and cycling in their neighborhood. Limitations are the use of self-report and cross-sectional data. Longitudinal studies may clarify these relations.

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