The Feasibility of Cycling as a Form of Active Commuting Among Children from a Parental Perspective: A Qualitative Study

Key Takeaways:

  • Of the study participants interviewed, the primary travel mode to school for their children was 55 percent by personal vehicle, 33 percent by walking, and five percent by bus. Of the sample, no children biked as their primary mode of transportation to school.
  • Many parents stated a lack of resources available for other modes as a reason for deciding to walk or take public transit for their daily commute, as these modes are more accessible. This included not being able to afford a bike and instead opting for walking, or not having a personal vehicle and instead opting for public transportation.
  • Parents reported that distance was a factor in choosing not to walk or bike to school. This was especially true if adequate infrastructure was also not available such as sidewalks, bike lanes, or bike racks to safely store bikes at school.
  • Parents expressed concerns about weather such as rain or cold temperatures, the presence of crime within their neighborhoods, or high vehicle speeds as other barriers to walking and biking.
  • Parents were more likely to encourage their children to walk to school if they were walking either with an adult or a group of other children.
  • Parents reported their children not having attended bicycle training education as a barrier to encouraging biking to school for their children. Parents of children that had completed a ‘bikeability’ program felt more comfortable allowing their children to bike to school.


  • Adult-led walking and biking routes (walking school busses and bicycle trains) help to reduce common barriers to walking and biking to school, including concerns of crime and traffic safety. Organized walking or biking groups can also provide added encouragement and positive reinforcement for students to walk or bike when weather conditions are less ideal.   
  • Bicycle training programs for children that teach safe riding skills can increase the confidence of parents and children and can encourage higher rates of actively commuting to school.
  • Safe Route to School practitioners should continue to work to advance infrastructure improvements like sidewalks, bike lanes, bike racks, safe crossings, and traffic calming to slow cars to increase the number of children that walk or bike to school.


  • Researchers conducted interviews of parents (n=18)  of students aged 8-12 years old in London to understand perceptions of walking and biking to school. A thematic analysis of the parents’ responses was then performed with parent responses were coded into six categories: lack of resources, safety, environment, social, infrastructure, and perceived benefits of cycling. The qualitative analysis of their responses provided insight in the limitations of using walking or biking, and explained why the parents encouraged their children to walk or bike to school.


De Aguiar Greca, João Paulo, Thomas Korff, and Jennifer Ryan. “The Feasibility of Cycling as a Form of Active Commuting among Children from a Parental Perspective: A Qualitative Study.” International Journal of Health Promotion and Education 61, no. 5 (September 3, 2023): 266–75.

Snapshot of research page
filed under