Active transport to and from school

This section presents statistics on school-children who use active transport (e.g. walking or cycling) to travel to and from school.

Considering the high child obesity rate in New Zealand, using active transport to travel to or from school is an important way for children to get the recommended minimum of physical activity every day.

Dramatic drop in active transport use to school from 1989/90 to 2010–14

Children were much less likely to use active modes of transport to get to school in recent years than during the late 1980s (Figure 1).

The percentage of children walking to school dropped from 42% in 1989/90, to 29% in 2010–14. For cycling, the percentage dropped from 12% in 1989/90, to 2% in 2010–14.

The percentage of children who were passengers in cars increased from 31% in 1989/90, to 55% in 2010–14.    

Figure 1: Mode of transport used to get to school, by children aged 5–12 years, 1989/90 – 2010–14 (unadjusted prevalence, %)

Less than half of 5 to 14-year-olds used active transport to and from school in 2019/20

In 2019/20, 42.4% of children aged 5–14 years usually used active transport to and from school (Figure 2). This is equal to about 279,000 children. There has been no significant change in the use of active transport among 5–14-year-olds since 2006/07.  

Figure 2: Usually used active transport to and from school, children aged 5–14 years, 2006/07 - 2019/20 (unadjusted prevalence)

Older children and boys were more likely to use active transport to school

In 2019/20, there was a slight difference between the percentages of younger children (5–9 years) and older children (10–14 years) who usually used active transport to and from school (Table 1).

Table 1: Usually used active transport to and from school, children aged 5–14 years, by age group and sex, 2019/20

Adjusting for age, boys were significantly more likely to usually use active transport to school than girls (adjusted rate ratio 1.2, 95 % CI: 1.0–1.3). The prevalence of active transport use within these subgroups has also remained steady since the 2006/07 survey.

Use of active transport is similar for all ethnic groups and across neighbourhood deprivation

There were similar levels in the use of active transport to and from school across all ethnic groups in 2019/20 (Table 2).

Table 2: Usually used active transport to and from school, children aged 5–14 years, by ethnic group (total response), 2019/20

There were no differences for Māori, Pacific or Asian children compared to their comparison groups.

The prevalence of regular active transport users was similar across all NZDep2013 quintiles (Figure 3). After adjusting for age, sex and ethnic group, there was no statistically significant difference in the rate of use of active transport when comparing the most deprived to the least deprived areas (adjusted rate ratio 1.0, 95% CI: 0.8–1.3).

Figure 3: Usually used active transport to travel to and from school, children aged 5–14 years, by NZDep2013, 2019/20 (unadjusted prevalence)

 

Less use of active transport by children in Northland, Wairarapa and Tairāwhiti DHBs in 2014-17

Children in the district health boards (DHBs) of Northland (27.1%), Wairarapa (30.2%) and Tairāwhiti (34.8%) had the lowest rates of active transport in 2014–17 (Figure 4). These rates are all significantly lower than the national rate.

Figure 4: Usually used active transport to and from school, children aged 5–14 years, by District Health Board (DHB), 2014-17 (unadjusted prevalence) 

AT2S DHB

Information about the data

This webpage includes data from the following two sources:

Transport mode to school

Source: Ministry of Transport - New Zealand Household Travel Survey (1989/90, 1997/98, 2003–07, 2010–14) (HD011 Mode share of journeys to school).

Definition: Transport mode used by children aged 5–12 years who are full-time students and who travel to education from home, for journeys commencing between 6am and 9:30am. 

Active transport to and from school

Source: Ministry of Health - New Zealand Health Survey (2006/07, 2011/12–2019/20)

Definition: Children aged 5–14 years who usually travelled to and from school by walking, cycling or other non-motorised modes such as skates, among all children aged 5–14 years. 

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