More research required to understand what cycling initiatives work best

Study concludes only modest effects achieved by promotion schemes

by Mark Appleton   October 20, 2010  

Cycling in London poster by Rachel Lillie

More research is needed to determine what type of initiative works best to increase levels of cycling.

That’s the not-exactly-earth-shattering conclusion of a study which had just been published in the British Medical Journal. The study was an attempt 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.”

The report says that it is unclear whether community approaches to increase cycling amongst children and adults have anything more than a modest effect.

“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,” says an abstract of the report.

The research looked at 25 different schemes in Australia, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and the USA.

“There is no clear message that one approach is better than another,” said Dr David Ogilvie of the Cambridge-based Institute of Public Health, who led the report’s authors.

Given the diverse nature of these countries in terms of climate, topography, culture etc, it would have been surprising to find a one-size-fits-all solution to the issue of getting more people cycling.

The report concludes that: “A strategy of changes to the environment combined with advice and support at both individual and institutional levels may, therefore, be required to bring about substantial and sustained changes in travel behaviour in the population.”

In other words, build better cycling facilities and promote the convenience and health benefits of cycling to society as a whole and to individuals who would benefit from increased exercise. That's something that sounds rather like common sense to us.