A recent publication of the national klimaaktiv program caught my attention last week. Following this report, 55% of all kids in Austria are brought to kindergarten by car. The share of kids cycling to kindergarten is below 5%.
As the figures are for Austria, I don’t know if they are representative of my home town. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any statistics for Salzburg. My personal experience is that the number of kids on bicycles is very low – at least in my kids’ kindergarten. Most of the time we are the only one coming by bike.
Independently from the availability of statistics, open (government) data allowed me to do a bit of spatial analysis on the accessibility of kindergartens in Salzburg. The results are striking: there is virtually no need to bring kids to kindergarten by car in terms of distance or travel time. However, the environment of kindergartens is not always pedestrian- and bicyclist-friendly and of course, this impacts the mode choice for bringing and picking-up kids.
For the analysis I used the following data and settings:
- Address data are available from the federal Bundesamt für Eich- und Vermessungswesen. The dataset can be downloaded from their website .
- The location of kindergartens are published as OGD by the city administration. The most direct way to the data is to use this WFS . I need to add a disclaimer here: I’m not sure whether all kindergartens are included in this data set. Probably, not all private facilities are on the list.
- For the network analysis I used authoritative road data (GIP ), published as OGD and enriched this dataset with additional information, which is also available via the national OGD portal .
- I used the routing engine from ArcGIS Desktop 10.4 for performing the network analysis.
For the optimization of bicycle routes I employed the impedance model we have developed a few years ago for a bicycle routing service (see here and here for details). An average speed of 15 km/h (which might be a little bit too high) and global turn impedance at intersections were used as input parameters. For the pedestrian routes the shortest path was calculated and an average walking speed of 0.8 m/s was assumed.
- The walkability and bikeability index were modelled in the context of the GISMO research project; details are going to be published soon.
The average walking time to the next kindergarten, considering all address points in Salzburg is 8.14 minutes with a standard deviation of 6.10 minutes. The median is 6.86 minutes. 74% of all address points (16,741 of 22,694) are within 10 walking minutes from the next kindergarten. This means that 3 out of 4 kids could walk to kindergarten within a reasonable time.
These figures are even more striking when kids cycle to kindergarten. The average travel time is 2.90 minutes (!) with a standard deviation of 2.21 minutes. The median is 2.42 minutes. From 89% of all address points in Salzburg the next kindergarten could be reached in less than 5 minutes. This figures rises to incredible 98% for a maximum travel time of 10 minutes. Plotted on a map these figures look like this:
Although these numbers are striking, obviously, there are good reasons for parents not to let their kids walk or bicycle. Interestingly, the scientific evidence on influential factors on the mode choice for kindergarten-related trips is weak (not to say nonexistent). Studies of school pupils’ commuting trips reveal a significant impact of parent’s perception of the suitability of the environment on the mode choice (see for example Timperio et al. (2004) or Bringolf-Isler et al. (2008) ). The impact of parents’ perception and behavior might be even bigger for kindergarten kids. In any case, the quality of the environment needs to be high in terms of pedestrian- and bicyclist-safety if active mobility should be further promoted. That this is currently not always the case, becomes obvious in the following maps:
Last year, results of a large study on the relation of urban environments and level of physical activity were published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet . The authors found that approximately 50% of the WHO recommendation of 150 minutes physical activity per week can be stimulated by an adequate environment.
Thus, the provision of safe and comfortable infrastructure has a huge effect, far beyond kids walking or cycling to kindergarten. Usually, this effect is quantified in terms of health, environment or economy. But apart from these important dimensions there is another one when it comes to kids. As Moran et al. (2017) proved earlier this year, the mode choice influences navigation skills and (spatial) knowledge of the neighborhood. As a geographer I’m tempted to conclude that these findings are a sufficient argument for further promoting active commuting to kindergarten and school!