Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design
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For children and youth, the journey to and from school represents a significant opportunity to increase daily levels of physical activity by using non-motorized modes of travel, such as walking and biking. Studies of active school travel have demonstrated that the likelihood a child will walk or bike is significantly influenced by the distance they must travel between home and school, which in turn, is influenced by built environment characteristics such as the configuration of the local road network. This study examines how shortcuts can facilitate active school travel by decreasing the distance children must travel to get to and from school. A geographic information system was used to compare shortest route distances along road networks with and without shortcuts in 32 elementary school zones in London, Ontario, Canada and provide evidence on the effectiveness of shortcuts to facilitate active school travel. This study contributes two key findings: (1) shortcuts have a greater impact in areas with low street connectivity and low population density and (2) children living farther from school are more likely to benefit from shortcuts. The findings suggest that planners should consider the location and maintenance of shortcuts in school neighbourhoods in order to promote increased physical activity, health and well-being among students.