Walking Toward a Brighter Future: A Participatory Research Process to Advocate for Improved Walk-to-School Corridors

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Inclusive place-making is an important strategy to ensure that built-environment improvements contribute rather than detract from community health. We conducted participatory research to support 15 youth leaders as they advocated for improvements to their walk-to-school environment. The project included four phases. During Phase 1 (Route and Experience Identification), we visited 21 classrooms in three Bridgeport high schools and used an interactive mapping process with students to identify the most often used walk-to-school routes. Youth leaders also collected questionnaires from 187 peers about their school travel experiences. During Phase 2 (Route Assessment), the youth leaders examined the quality of these routes using the Microscale Audit of Pedestrian Streetscapes assessment tool. During Phase 3 (Data Analysis), the University partners analyzed the data collected in the prior phases. Percentage scores were calculated for each segment and crossing along the routes assessed. We used chi-square tests to examine associations between students’ travel model and negative travel-related experiences. Almost all segments (82%) and crossings (91%) examined received a failing grade (p= .001), missing first period (p = .006), and lower grades (p = .001) due to travel-related challenges. The findings from these assessments were used during Phase 4 (Youth Campaign) to advocate for safer routes to schools. We describe both the lessons learned and successes from the project. Other municipalities might benefit from replicating the youth-led, participatory approach used in this study.


Epub ahead of print.

At the time the article was written Ann-Uriel Knausenberger was the graduate assistant for Anna Greer.






Health Promotion Practice


SAGE Journals