Safety and Thermal Comfort Concerns for Active Travel to School: As Mediators and Correlates
Kim, Young Jae
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Children?s active travel to school (ATS), considered a regular source of physical activity, is influenced heavily by their parents? perceived barriers to ATS such as safety and thermal comfort concerns. This dissertation focuses on environmental correlates of parental concerns of safety and thermal comfort and of children?s ATS to identify effective environmental interventions. This cross-sectional study utilizes data from 4,602 parental surveys from 20 elementary schools in the Austin Independent School District and objectively measured environmental data derived from geographic information systems and a remote sensing program. In Study 1, environmental correlates of parental safety and thermal comfort concerns were identified. The results from multivariate analyses, ordinary least square regressions for the safety concern outcome variable and stereotype logistic regressions for the thermal comfort concern outcome variable, showed that unsafe and thermally uncomfortable environments increased concerns for safety and thermal comfort. Children of low-income parents were more likely to be exposed to undesirable environments, and thereby their parents had higher safety and thermal comfort concerns. In Study 2, built and natural environmental correlates of ATS and potential differences in the correlates for different distance ranges were examined. The results from spline regressions identified environmental correlates of ATS: bike lanes (+), playgrounds, parks (+), tree heights (+), highways (-), crash hotspots (-), and steep slopes (-). The negative relationship between distance and ATS was significant until 1.49 miles and was no longer significant beyond 1.5 miles. Furthermore, the varying impacts of environmental variables on ATS across home-to-school distance ranges were also shown in regular regressions. In Study 3, the mediating roles of safety and thermal comfort concerns in the environment-ATS relationship were examined using structural equation models (SEMs). In the safety SEM model, social support (+), intersections (-), crime (-), and bike lanes (+) were indirectly associated with ATS through its relationship with safety concerns. In the thermal comfort SEM model, perceived tree shadiness (+) was directly associated with lower parental thermal comfort concerns and indirectly increased the probability of ATS. In both SEM models, the objectively-measured tree canopy variable was shown to be a strong facilitator of ATS, directly reducing both parental concerns. This dissertation research provided additional knowledge about parental safety and thermal comfort concerns as important barriers to children?s ATS; showed specific environmental factors contributing to increase or decrease those concerns; and explored their important roles as mediators in the environment-ATS relationship. Furthermore, findings of this study suggested that effective environmental intervention strategies should consider different home-to-school distance ranges.