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Effectiveness and equity impacts of town-wide cycling initiatives in England: A longitudinal, controlled natural experimental study


  • Goodman, Anna
  • Panter, Jenna
  • Sharp, Stephen J.
  • Ogilvie, David


Cycling confers health and environmental benefits, but few robust studies have evaluated large-scale programmes to promote cycling. In England, recent years have seen substantial, town-wide cycling initiatives in six Cycling Demonstration Towns (funded 2005–2011) and 12 Cycling Cities and Towns (funded 2008–2011). The initiatives involved mixtures of capital investment (e.g. cycle lanes) and revenue investment (e.g. cycle training), tailored to each town. This controlled before-after natural experimental study used English census data to examine impacts on the prevalence of travelling to work by bicycle and other modes, comparing changes in the intervention towns with changes in three comparison groups (matched towns, unfunded towns and a national comparison group). We also compared effects between more and less deprived areas, and used random-effects meta-analysis to compare intervention effects between towns. Among 1.3 million commuters in 18 intervention towns, we found that the prevalence of cycling to work rose from 5.8% in 2001 to 6.8% in 2011. This represented a significant increase relative to all three comparison groups (e.g. +0.69 (95% CI 0.60,0.77) percentage points for intervention vs. matched towns). Walking to work also increased significantly compared with comparison towns, while driving to work decreased and public transport use was unchanged. These effects were observed across all fifths of area deprivation, with larger relative changes in deprived areas. There was substantial variation in effect sizes between towns, however, and the average town-level effect on cycling was non-significant (+0.29 (−0.26,0.84) percentage points for intervention vs. matched towns). We conclude that to date, cycling to work has increased (and driving to work decreased) in the intervention towns, in a relatively equitable manner. The variation in effects between towns indicates uncertainty regarding the likely impact of comparable investment in future towns. Nevertheless these results support the case for implementing and evaluating further town-wide cycling initiatives.

Suggested Citation

  • Goodman, Anna & Panter, Jenna & Sharp, Stephen J. & Ogilvie, David, 2013. "Effectiveness and equity impacts of town-wide cycling initiatives in England: A longitudinal, controlled natural experimental study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 228-237.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:97:y:2013:i:c:p:228-237
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.08.030

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Downward, Paul & Rasciute, Simona, 2015. "Assessing the impact of the National Cycle Network and physical activity lifestyle on cycling behaviour in England," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 425-437.
    3. Martin, Adam & Morciano, Marcello & Suhrcke, Marc, 2021. "Determinants of bicycle commuting and the effect of bicycle infrastructure investment in London: Evidence from UK census microdata," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 41(C).
    4. Hamidi, Zahra & Camporeale, Rosalia & Caggiani, Leonardo, 2019. "Inequalities in access to bike-and-ride opportunities: Findings for the city of Malmö," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 673-688.
    5. Aldred, Rachel & Woodcock, James, 2015. "Reframing safety: An analysis of perceptions of cycle safety clothing," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 103-112.
    6. Scheepers, C.E. & Wendel-Vos, G.C.W. & den Broeder, J.M. & van Kempen, E.E.M.M. & van Wesemael, P.J.V. & Schuit, A.J., 2014. "Shifting from car to active transport: A systematic review of the effectiveness of interventions," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 264-280.
    7. Bloyce, Daniel & White, Chris, 2018. "When transport policy becomes health policy: A documentary analysis of active travel policy in England," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 13-23.
    8. Jinhyun Hong & David Philip McArthur & Mark Livingston, 2020. "The evaluation of large cycling infrastructure investments in Glasgow using crowdsourced cycle data," Transportation, Springer, vol. 47(6), pages 2859-2872, December.
    9. Braun, Lindsay M. & Rodriguez, Daniel A. & Cole-Hunter, Tom & Ambros, Albert & Donaire-Gonzalez, David & Jerrett, Michael & Mendez, Michelle A. & Nieuwenhuijsen, Mark J. & de Nazelle, Audrey, 2016. "Short-term planning and policy interventions to promote cycling in urban centers: Findings from a commute mode choice analysis in Barcelona, Spain," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 164-183.
    10. Cervero, Robert & Denman, Steve & Jin, Ying, 2019. "Network design, built and natural environments, and bicycle commuting: Evidence from British cities and towns," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 153-164.

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