Interventions to promote cycling – a systematic review

Community-wide promotional activities, improving cycle routes and targeted marketing to households all have the potential to increase cycling in the population, finds a study published by the British Medical Journal on 19 October. This could make a valuable contribution to improving public health.

There is a strong case for promoting cycling on health grounds, write Lin Yang and colleagues from the MRC Epidemiology Unit and the UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) in Cambridge. Physical activity reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and premature mortality. Cycling is a form of physical activity that could be incorporated into many people’s daily routines as a mode of transport, resulting in both health and environmental benefits.

The authors reviewed 25 controlled studies of different ways of promoting cycling. A variety of approaches have been found to be associated with increases in cycling in different studies: these include an intensive one-to-one programme for overweight women, targeted marketing of environmentally friendly modes of transport to households, improving routes and facilities for cycling, and integrated promotional programmes covering whole towns or cities.

However, more rigorous studies are needed to confirm how large an increase in cycling can be achieved and what impact this would have on overall physical activity in the population. Future research should also test the potential for promoting cycling through schools and workplaces, say the authors.

Link to the published paper: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/doi/10.1136/bmj.c5293

For further information please contact Dr David Ogilvie