The methods used by Dunedin teenagers to get to and from
school will be the subject of an intensive study across the
city's 12 high schools.
Starting in mid-February, the Built Environment and Active
Transport to School (Beats) study will survey the
transportation habits of 2000 Dunedin young people, aged
13-18, along with 1000 parents and about 120 teachers.
About 150 pupils from each school will take part.
Research team leader Dr Sandy Mandic, of the University of
Otago School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise, said
the online survey would ask wide-ranging questions on
everything from how often pupils walked or cycled to school,
to whether they felt safe on the roads and their perceptions
of ''built environments'' such as cycleways.
The survey would also involve a physical assessment conducted
at school by teams led by Beats study co-ordinator Ashley
Volunteers from among pupils and parents would also take part
in a physical activity assessment, wearing an accelerometer
that would measure levels of activity along with sedentary
Dr Mandic believed the findings from the study would provide
valuable information for schools, city councils, transport
agencies and land planners.
They would also provide a good base-line for comparison in
the future, to assess the impact of ongoing changes in
Dunedin's built environment - such as the building of
extensive cycleway-walkway networks, she said.
Because of its wide-ranging subject matter, the Beats study
involved a multi-disciplinary research team, including
university researchers Dr John Williams (School of Business),
Dr Tony Moore (School of Surveying), Dr Debbie Hopkins
(Centre for Sustainability), Dunedin Secondary Schools
Partnership manager Gordon Wilson, and Dunedin City Council
Safe and Sustainable Travel co-ordinator Charlotte Flaherty.
The research, which will continue until 2015, is funded
through research grants from the University of Otago and
Dunedin City Council.
''An aspect of the study we [the council] are particularly
interested in is the barriers to people participating in
active transport - such as a perceived lack of safe cycling
facilities,'' Mrs Flaherty said.
''It will be very interesting to see if the work being done
on the cycle network changes those perceptions.''
With the lack of physical activity and increase in sedentary
lifestyle among adolescents becoming a global health problem,
active transport to school was a convenient way to integrate
physical activity into everyday life, Dr Mandic said.
''Built environments and how they affect physical activity is
a hot topic around the world - there is going to be a lot of
interest in our results.''
The survey will start with Logan Park High School, where
principal Jane Johnson said there was a sizeable cohort of
the school's pupils who chose to walk or cycle to school.