Active transport to and from school

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

For children, using active transport to and from school is an important way to get some physical activity each day. With the high child obesity rate in New Zealand, this is a relatively easy way to increase physical activity in children.

On this page

Dramatic drop in active transport use to school since 1989/90
Almost half of 5–14-year-olds use active transport to and from school
Boys and older children have higher use of active transport to school
No major differences by ethnic group or socioeconomic deprivation
Less use of active transport by children in Northland and Wairarapa DHBs

Dramatic drop in active transport use to school since 1989/90

Children are much less likely to use active modes of transport to get to school now 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

Almost half of 5–14-year-olds use active transport to and from school

The following data come from the New Zealand Health Survey.

In 2015/16, 45.8% of children aged 5–14 years usually used active transport to and from school. This is about 280,000 children.

There has been no significant change in the use of active transport among 5–14-year-olds from 2006/07 (46.2%) to 2015/16 (45.8%) (Figure 2). 

Figure 2: Usually uses active transport to and from school, children aged 5–14 years, 2006/07 - 2015/16 (unadjusted prevalence)
Graph active transport time trends2

Boys and older children are more likely to use active transport

In 2015/16, boys were more likely to usually use active transport to and from school (48.5%) than girls (43.0%).

Older children aged 10–14 years were more likely to use active transport (49.7%) than children aged 5–9 years (42.3%). 

No major differences by ethnic group or socioeconomic deprivation

There were no significant differences in active transport use for children in the main ethnic groups:

  • Māori children: 45.0%
  • Pacific children: 48.3%
  • Asian children: 45.1%
  • European/Other children: 44.6%.

There were no major differences in active transport use by socioeconomic deprivation (NZDep2013 quintiles) (Figure 3). 

Figure 3: Usually uses active transport to and from school, children aged 5–14 years, by neighbourhood deprivation (NZDep2013 quintiles), 2015/16 (unadjusted prevalence)
Graph active transport nzdep

Less use of active transport by children in Northland and Wairarapa DHBs

Children in the district health boards (DHBs) of Northland (27.3%) and Wairarapa (29.5%) had a lower use of active transport than the national rate in 2011–15 (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Usually uses active transport to and from school, children aged 5–14 years, by district health board (DHB), 2011–15 (unadjusted prevalence)
Graph active transport DHB

Information about the data

This webpage includes data from the following two sources.

Transport mode to school

Source: New Zealand Household Travel Survey, Ministry of Transport (1989/90, 1997/98, 2003–07, 2010–14) (TP007 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. 

For more information, visit the Ministry of Transport webpage for this data.

Active transport to and from school

Source: New Zealand Health Survey, Ministry of Health (2006/07, 2011/12–2015/16)

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. 

For more information, visit the Ministry of Health's webpages on the New Zealand Health Survey, and  data from the 2015/16 New Zealand Health Survey.