2017 - Journal Article, Research

Bicycle Trains, Cycling, and Physical Activity: A Pilot Cluster RCT

Key takeaway:

  • Bicycle trains significantly increase children’s cycling to school and overall daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA).

 

Results:

  • The researchers tested three hypotheses:
  1. Bicycle train programs will increase children’s rates of cycling to school
  2. Regularly cycling to/from school will influence children’s behaviors for cycling as transportation in general
  3. Bicycle train programs will also encourage cycling as an enjoyable leisure activity, which will lead to increases in total daily physical activity beyond the school commute.
  • The researchers’ hypotheses were confirmed as the bicycle train intervention positively impacted children’s rates of cycling to school and overall MVPA. Replication of this study among larger samples in different settings is needed to confirm whether bicycle train programs increase total daily physical activity beyond the school commute.
  • Children who participated in the bicycle train had:
    • An absolute increase of 45 percent for their daily average rate of cycling to school;
    • Decreased cardio-metabolic risk and obesity;
    • 21.6 minutes more of daily MVPA, which represents over a third of the recommended MVPA amount. Walking school buses, on the other hand, only led to an increase of seven minutes in daily MVPA.
    • Over half of the additional MVPA achieved by the children who participated in the bicycle train resulted from increased activity before and after school.
    • There is a gender gap in MVPA achievement, with girls achieving less MVPA than boys.

Implications:

  • The gender gap in MVPA achievement underscores the need for targeted efforts to increase girls’ MVPA and participation in bicycle trains.
  • A previous study found that bicycle training courses improved children’s cycling skills, but not their rates of cycling to school. This study found that bicycle trains significantly increased children’s rates of cycling to school in the short term, which suggests that bicycle trains can strongly complement/reinforce education to increase cycling rates.

Methods:

  • The researchers did a randomized controlled trial of a daily bicycle train program involving fourth and fifth graders from four public schools serving low-income families in Seattle, WA in 2015 – 2016. They evaluated the impact of the bicycle train intervention on students’ school travel mode (whether it increased their likelihood of cycling to school) and MVPA.

Mendoza, J.; Haaland, W.; Jacobs, M.; Abbey-Lambertz, M.; Miller, J.; Salls, D.; Todd, W.; Madding, R.; Ellis, K.; and Kerr, J. (2017). Bicycle Trains, Cycling, and Physical Activity: A Pilot Cluster RCT. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Article in press.