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Children’s Bicycling to After-School Activities: The Case of the Davis AYSO Bike-to-Soccer Program


Research Report

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Suggested Citation:
Tal, Gil and Susan L. Handy (2008) Children’s Bicycling to After-School Activities: The Case of the Davis AYSO Bike-to-Soccer Program. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-08-08

In recent years, transportation planners have devoted more attention to the goal of increasing the non-motorized trips of children and adults. Non-motorized trips are considered important as a mean of reducing motorized trips as well increasing physical activity. Indeed, lack of physical activity has been identified as a major public health problem for both adults and younger people (Center of Disease control (CDC), 2005; Sallis, et al., 2004). A CDC report from 2002, for example, reports that about a third of the teenagers are not physically active enough (CDC, 2002). The lack of physical activity among children is, in part, associated with travel behavior and urban form (Ewing et al, 2003, Handy et al, 2002; Martin-Diener et al, 2005): children living in auto-oriented areas in the U.S. use walking and biking as modes of transportation to nearby destinations to a limited extent and less than in the past (Sallis et al, 1993; Sallis et al 2000). Their high level of auto use is, of course, tied to a high level of auto use among their parents, particularly their mothers (McMillan, 2007).

For children, much discussion has focused on the journey to school, though researchers are now addressing non-school travel as well. According to McDonald (2006), who studied children’s travel patterns based on the National Household Travel Survey, only 12% of the trips to sport activities are made by bike. The NHTS data do not allow a full estimate of non-motorized trips taken alone, versus trips taken with a parent, but it is reasonable to assume that use of bikes is even lower when parents are involved in the trip. Copperman and Bhat (2007) analyzed the determinants of children’s weekend physical activity participation using data from the 2000 Bay Area travel survey. Their models correlate socio-demographic and land use variables with active and passive travel (i.e. non-motorized and motorized) and with physically active and passive activities. Their findings suggest that children (ages 5 to 17) rarely use non-motorized modes to get to places where they engage in physical activities, and that individual and household demographics, along with environmental factors, affect the level of physical activity.

One place where children might be expected to use non-motorized modes to get to after-school activities is Davis, CA, well-known as a bicycle-friendly community. In Fall 2006, the Davis chapter of the American Youth Soccer Organization (Davis AYSO) set out to increase bicycling to soccer games through a two-pronged approach. First, the organization adopted a new approach to scheduling games, spreading them to fields throughout Davis rather than scheduling as many games as possible at three centralized fields. For most games, at least one team (and often both) was scheduled for a field within their neighborhood. In addition, Davis AYSO undertook a promotional program to encourage families to bike to games, including distribution of “Bike to AYSO” bike stickers, the creation of a special web site that included a Davis Bike Map, and e-mail announcements to almost all families about the “Bike to AYSO” effort. To evaluate the effectiveness of this program in encouraging players and their families to bike more frequently, Davis AYSO worked with researchers at the University of California, Davis. This report describes the methods used in that effort and summarizes the results.

A later report on this work is available (ITS-Davis publication UCD-ITS-RP-08-41).