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Engaging the Community to Address Barriers to Walking and Biking to School

| Arizona

Jul 22, 2018

Walking and biking to school is great physical activity for students. It helps students meet the goal of 60 minutes a day of physical activity. The University of Arizona Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (UA) joined with community members to help increase walking and biking. The community and UA wanted to support walking and biking to school. UA began an extended process of assessing community needs. The result was a community-led committee. The committee addressed barriers to walking and biking to school.

Five-Part Process:

  1. Conducted Walkability/Bikeability Audits. UA conducted audits (Active School Neighborhood Checklist of Arizona) in 10 low-income schools in Pima County, Arizona. UA used the Active School Neighborhood Checklist of Arizona.
  2. Developed Walking and Biking Maps. UA worked with a local nonprofit. They developed walking and biking maps for two of the assessed schools.
    walking and bike map
  3. Collected Community Feedback via Qualitative Methods. UA collected opinions about a park near one assessed school. People said pedestrian safety was the biggest concern. This kept people from  being active and using the park. UA received positive and negative comments about the park:
    • "I walk five miles a day around the park."
    • "I've been playing softball here for 11 years."
    • "Back in the day (1982) it was very calm with desert vegetation around us we enjoyed the neighorhood. Now it's not safe [the park]."
      paper with writing
  4. Gathered Community Stakeholders to Address Neighborhood Challenges. UA invited leaders from different community groups. These included, the police department, school, district school board, health department and an after-school program. All the groups met to discuss pedestrian safety concerns. UA recorded several comments from community stakeholders:
    • "I have a vision for the community to feel safe to use the park as a hub/gathering space."
    • "It sounds like a common goal is to create a safe space around [the neighborhood] for people to walk, gather, and play."
      woman at table
  5. Conducted National Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Parent Survey. UA worked with the principal of the school to conduct the survey. The survey asked why families did not walk or bike to school.

Next Steps

UA will share the results from the surveys with community leaders. The community will decide how they want to improve walking and biking to school. Then, UA will provide technical assistance to the community. A potential project is a Walking School Bus program. Walking School Bus programs often alleviate parents’ safety concerns. The UA plans to broaden the scope of this project. UA will engage with other neighborhoods and build relationships. Then UA will perform more needs assessments.

UA will repeat the Safe Routes to School Parent Survey at the end of next school year. This will determine if there is an increase in students that walk or bike to school.

This story was submitted by University of Arizona SNAP-Ed. Contact Lauren McCullough and Gabriela Barillas-Longoria,, for more information. 

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