By Charles Pekow — Ever tried taking your kids to school on the back of an electric bicycle? It works in China – but generally isn’t used as much in a dual-working parent family where the mother works longer hours than the father. In those families, the parents would rather drop off and pick up the kids by car. Or so says a report based on a study in the city of Kunming, the capital of the southern province of Yunnan, a city of 4.3 million people.
Much previous research has focused on walking and biking as means to escort children to school, but not on e-bikes, a more common mode of transport in China than in the United States. So five Chinese researchers attempted to fill the gap with Investigating Electric Bicycles as a Travel Mode Choice for Escorting Children to School: A Case Study in Kunming, China, published in the latest issue of Transportation Research Record, the journal of the Transportation Research Board (goo.gl/sCOzZD). The authors state that parents are increasingly driving their kids to school, which not only contributes to congestion and dirty air but to the number of overweight children.
As you would expect, parents are less likely to use bicycle or e-bike to take kids to school if they lived further from campus. And mothers assumed most of the child care responsibilities, so they were more likely than fathers to drop the kids off by e-bike. And if older people, such as grandparents, lived in the household too, they were more likely to accompany the kid by foot or e-bike than to have the kid taken by auto. Flexible hours for the mother didn’t seem to affect mode choice significantly.
The researchers relied on records kept by families in 2011. The results suggest, that since it is usually mothers who take the kids to school, “policies should guide female employees to balance work and family, for instance, by decreasing the working hours of females,” the study concludes. It also suggests governments establish good schools closer to where people live.