Percentage of pupils using Shanks’s pony or cycling has plunged.

Walking is no longer the most common way to get to school-- and cycling rates have dropped even more dramatically over 25 years.

A new Ministry of Transport report, 25 years of New Zealand Travel: New Zealand Household Travel 1989-2014, examines long-term travel trends, including how schoolchildren commute.

Children are more likely to be car passengers now than 25 years ago, and far fewer are cycling to school.

For primary school children in the late 1980s, 42 per cent of school journeys involved walking, followed by being driven (32 per cent), using public transport (13 per cent) and cycling (12 per cent).

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By 2010-2014, the walking rate had fallen to 29 per cent, while more than half of primary school children's journeys were as car passengers (57 per cent). Public transport had fallen slightly to 11 per cent, with cycling declining by much more, to just 2 per cent.

Cycling to school saw a similar drop for secondary school students - falling from 19 per cent to 3 per cent of journeys. Now, being a car passenger is the most common form of travel (21 to 32 per cent), supplanting walking (26-28 per cent).

Cycling to school was made a political issue ahead of last year's election when the Green Party pledged to build up to $200 million worth cycle lanes and walkways around schools. The Greens predicted that if walking and cycling returned to 1989 levels, that would remove 100,000 cars from the road each morning.

Studies had found that the main reason for the fall in cycling rates was the belief that biking to school was dangerous, the party said.

Yesterday, Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss said the wider report helped provide a better understanding of how people used transport, and helped make decisions about transport networks.

"There are interesting and sometimes surprising results. For example, since the late 1980s, the average amount of time spent driving in a car each day has risen by only four minutes - from 28 to 32 minutes."

Walking the way to go

Mellisa Oencardi, 12, has been walking to school since she started primary school. Photo / Supplied
Mellisa Oencardi, 12, has been walking to school since she started primary school. Photo / Supplied

Mellisa Oencardi, 12, has been walking to school since she started primary school.

The Year 8 student at Takapuna Normal Intermediate says she walks not because she has to, but because she wants to.

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"It keeps me healthy and fit, and it also gives me a chance to chat with friends during the walk," Mellisa says.

The 2.5km walk from her house in Forrest Hill to school takes about half an hour, weather permitting.