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Interventions to promote cycling: systematic review

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 18 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5293
  1. Lin Yang, PhD student,
  2. Shannon Sahlqvist, career development fellow,
  3. Alison McMinn, career development fellow,
  4. Simon J Griffin, assistant director,
  5. David Ogilvie, clinical investigator scientist
  1. 1Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit and UK Clinical Research Collaboration Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to: D Ogilvie, UK Clinical Research Collaboration Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), Box 296, Institute of Public Health, Forvie Site, Robinson Way, Cambridge CB2 0SR, UK david.ogilvie{at}
  • Accepted 13 August 2010


Objectives To determine what interventions are effective in promoting cycling, the size of the effects of interventions, and evidence of any associated benefits on overall physical activity or anthropometric measures.

Design Systematic review.

Data sources Published and unpublished reports in any language identified by searching 13 electronic databases, websites, reference lists, and existing systematic reviews, and papers identified by experts in the field.

Review methods Controlled “before and after” experimental or observational studies of the effect of any type of intervention on cycling behaviour measured at either individual or population level.

Results Twenty five studies (of which two were randomised controlled trials) from seven countries were included. Six studies examined interventions aimed specifically at promoting cycling, of which four (an intensive individual intervention in obese women, high quality improvements to a cycle route network, and two multifaceted cycle promotion initiatives at town or city level) were found to be associated with increases in cycling. Those studies that evaluated interventions at population level reported net increases of up to 3.4 percentage points in the population prevalence of cycling or the proportion of trips made by bicycle. Sixteen studies assessing individualised marketing of “environmentally friendly” modes of transport to interested households reported modest but consistent net effects equating to an average of eight additional cycling trips per person per year in the local population. Other interventions that targeted travel behaviour in general were not associated with a clear increase in cycling. Only two studies assessed effects of interventions on physical activity; one reported a positive shift in the population distribution of overall physical activity during the intervention.

Conclusions Community-wide promotional activities and improving infrastructure for cycling have the potential to increase cycling by modest amounts, but further controlled evaluative studies incorporating more precise measures are required, particularly in areas without an established cycling culture. Studies of individualised marketing report consistent positive effects of interventions on cycling behaviour, but these findings should be confirmed using more robust study designs. Future research should also examine how best to promote cycling in children and adolescents and through workplaces. Whether interventions to promote cycling result in an increase in overall physical activity or changes in anthropometric measures is unclear.


  • We thank the group of experts who responded to our request to identify additional studies for inclusion in the review.

  • Contributors: All authors contributed to the design of the review protocol. LY executed the search strategy and screened the initial results of the literature searches. All authors contributed to selecting the studies for inclusion, appraising and extracting data from the included studies, and analysing and interpreting the findings. LY and DO drafted the manuscript. All authors contributed to the critical revision of the manuscript and approved the final version. DO is guarantor.

  • Funding: This work was supported by the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), a UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) Public Health Research Centre of Excellence. Funding from the British Heart Foundation, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), and the Wellcome Trust, under the auspices of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration, is gratefully acknowledged ( SJG also receives support from the Department of Health NIHR Programme Grant funding scheme (RP-PG-0606-1259). The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Department of Health or other funders.

  • Competing interests: All authors have completed the Unified Competing Interest form at (available on request from the corresponding author) and declare that all authors had: (1) No financial support for the submitted work from anyone other than their employer and the other funding sources listed above; (2) No financial relationships with commercial entities that might have an interest in the submitted work; (3) No spouses, partners, or children with relationships with commercial entities that might have an interest in the submitted work; (4) No non-financial interests that may be relevant to the submitted work other than their involvement in current primary research in the topic area of the systematic review.

  • Ethical approval: Not required.

  • Data sharing: No additional data available.

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