Understanding the school journey: integrating data on travel and environment

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bike, mode - bus, mode - pedestrian, place - europe, policy - environment


school journey, environment, health promotion, bus, bike, pedestrian


Travel to and from school is a regular part of life for most children. Such movement can also have important social, economic, and environmental implications, both for individuals and for wider society. This paper uses innovative methods to examine the complexity of the school journey, and to relate it to exposure to air pollution and engagement with the environment through which children pass. Some thirty lower secondary school pupils used mobile-phone and global positioning system technology to record their routes to and from school in four study periods. They were asked to take photographs and write text messages relating to their route, and these data were then linked to modelled air pollution on the routes through which pupils travelled. Results demonstrate that for most children the journey to and from school is highly variable and contingent on other factors. Pupils who travelled independently (on foot, by bicycle, or by bus) were most likely to engage with their immediate environment, and small variations in route choice had significant effects on their cumulative exposure to air pollution. It is argued that the results shed new light on the everyday experience of the school journey, and have implications for health promotion and transport planning in towns.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Environment and Planning, copyright remains with them.