Elementary school parents complete walk-and-bike-to-school survey

Tate and mom Tamara Buchwald prepare to ride their bikes home from the Tisbury School. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

One hundred and ten parents of elementary school students on Martha’s Vineyard have completed an online questionnaire about their children and walking or biking to school. A majority of the parents had themselves walked or biked to school as children.

Peg Regan, the former Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School principal and now the program director for Mass in Motion-MV, said, “I was struck by the 61 percent of kids who wanted to walk or take a bike to school.”

She added that the chief obstacles to parents allowing their children to walk or bike to school, in addition to distance, included the speed and amount of traffic en route.

The questionnaire was sponsored by Mass in Motion-MV, part of a state initiative designed to promote health by focusing on ways to make it easier and safer to walk and bike. The survey was available to parents on the websites of the Oak Bluffs, West Tisbury, Tisbury, and Edgartown elementary schools in November and December.

Ms. Regan said parents were notified of the questionnaire in a letter from the school principals. The surveys were offered in English and Portuguese. She said that there might be a followup survey in spring and on paper to include those who might not have ready access to the online survey.

Ms. Regan said that a related project, an audit of sidewalks and shared use paths, will be done this winter and spring around the down-Island schools to see where they are not passable or are damaged. She said that she will make the results available to the schools.

The results of the Island elementary school survey were submitted to Erin Reed, the Safe Routes to School coordinator for Southeastern Massachusetts, a federally funded program, who is collecting data from all the Southeastern schools in Massachusetts. The Safe Routes to School program hopes to be involved in a similar survey with Mass in Motion-MV in the spring, according to Ms. Reed. She said that the surveys will help them target their programs more effectively.

The results

The respondents’ 170 or so children were distributed fairly evenly by grade, from kindergarten through the eighth grade. About half of the families live within a mile of their school.

Sixteen percent of the students walk to school, 19 percent walk home, six percent ride bikes.

Nineteen percent take the bus to school, 35 percent take the bus home. Fifty-seven percent are driven to school in the family car, 40 percent are driven home.

Two percent carpool to school, one percent carpool home. One percent reported that their child rides a skateboard to school. Sixty-two percent said that their child has asked to for permission to walk or ride to school. Thirty-one percent require less than five minutes to get to/from school; 44 percent, five to 10 minutes to get to/from school; and 21 percent 11 to 20 minutes to get to/from school.

In answer to the question “What of the following issues affected your decision to allow, or not allow, your child to walk or bike to school (check all that apply)?”

Thirty-eight percent replied distance; 21 percent replied convenience of driving them; 21 percent replied time; 23 percent replied before and after school activities; 47 percent replied speed of traffic along the route; 45 percent replied amount of traffic along the route; 20 percent replied adults to walk or bike with; 42 percent replied sidewalks or pathways; 25 percent replied crossing guards; five percent replied violence in the neighborhood; 31 percent replied weather or climate.

How much fun is walking or biking to school for your child (children)? Thirty-four percent replied very fun; 32 percent fun; 31 percent neutral; four percent not fun; 60 percent of the parents said that they walked or biked to elementary school as students; 81 percent of the parents said they had completed college.