Active travel to primary schools in Ireland: An opportunistic evaluation of a natural experiment

Barry Lambe, Niamh Murphy, Adrian Bauman

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There is a paucity of intervention studies assessing active travel to school as a mechanism to increase physical activity. This paper describes the impact of a community-wide intervention on active travel to primary schools in 2 Irish towns. Methods: This was a repeat cross-sectional study of a natural experiment. Self-report questionnaires were completed by 5th and 6th grade students in 3 towns (n = 1038 students in 2 intervention towns; n = 419 students in 1 control town) at baseline and by a new group of students 2 years later at follow-up. The absolute change in the proportion of children walking and cycling to school (difference in differences) was calculated. Results: There was no overall intervention effect detected for active travel to or from school. This is despite an absolute increase of 14.7% (1.6, 27.9) in the proportion of children that indicated a preference for active travel to school in the town with the most intensive intervention (town 2). Conclusions: Interventions designed to increase active travel to school hold some promise but should have a high-intensity mix of infrastructural and behavioral measures, be gender-specific, address car dependency and focus on travel home from school initially.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)448-454
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Physical Activity and Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • Cycling
  • Physical activity
  • Walking


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