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Data sources: Published and unpublished reports in any language identified by searching 13 electronic databases, websites, reference lists, and existing systematic reviews, and papers identified by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