Promoting walking and cycling as an alternative to using cars: systematic review

David Ogilvie, Matt Egan, Val Hamilton, Mark Petticrew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

295 Citations (Scopus)
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Objectives To assess what interventions are effective in promoting a population shift from using cars towards walking and cycling and to assess the health effects of such interventions. Data sources Published and unpublished reports in any language identified from electronic databases, bibliographies, websites, and reference lists. Review methods Systematic search and appraisal to identify experimental or observational studies with a prospective or controlled retrospective design that evaluated any intervention applied to an urban population or area by measuring outcomes in members of the local population. Results 22 studies met the inclusion criteria. We found some evidence that targeted behaviour change programmes can change the behaviour of motivated subgroups, resulting (in the largest study) in a shift of around 5% of all trips at a population level. Single studies of commuter subsidies and a new railway station also showed positive effects. The balance of best available evidence about publicity campaigns, engineering measures, and other interventions suggests that they have not been effective. Participants in trials of active commuting experienced short term improvements in certain measures of health and fitness, but we found no good evidence on effects on health of any effective intervention at population level. Conclusions The best available evidence of effectiveness in promoting a modal shift is for targeted behaviour change programmes, but the social distribution of their effects is unclear and some other types of intervention have yet to be rigorously evaluated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-766
Number of pages3
JournalBritish Medical Journal
Issue number7469
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2004


  • health promotion
  • transport
  • systematic review
  • urban population
  • behaviour


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