Systematic Review of Active Travel to School Surveillance in the United States And Canada


active travel to school
active transportation
surveillance system
school commutes
physical activity


Active travel to school is one way youth can incorporate physical activity into their daily schedule. It is unclear the extent to which active travel to school is systematically monitored at local, state, or national levels. To determine the extent of active travel to school surveillance in North America and catalog the types of measures captured, we conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed literature documenting active travel to school surveillance published from 2004 to February 2018. A study was included if it addressed children’s school travel mode across two or more time-periods in North America. Criteria were applied to determine whether a data source was considered an active travel to school surveillance system. We identified 15 unique data sources; 4 of these met our surveillance system criteria. One system is conducted in the US, is nationally representative, and occurs every 5-8 years. Three are conducted in Canada, are limited geographically to regions and provinces, and are administered with greater frequency (e.g., 2-year cycles).  School travel mode was the primary measure assessed, most commonly through parent report. None of the systems collected data on school policies or program supports related to active travel to school. We conclude that incorporating questions related to active travel to school behaviors into existing surveillance systems, and maintaining them over time, would enable more consistent monitoring. Concurrently capturing behavioral information along with related environmental, policy, and program supports may inform efforts to promote active travel to school.


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