Background: Promoting cycling to school may benefit establishing a lifelong physical activity routine. This systematic review aimed to summarize the evidence on strategies and effects of school-based interventions focusing on increasing active school transport by bicycle.
Methods: A literature search based on “PICo” was conducted in eight electronic databases. Randomized and non-randomized controlled trials with primary/secondary school students of all ages were included that conducted pre-post measurements of a school-based intervention aimed at promoting active school travel by bicycle and were published in English between 2000 and 2019. The methodological quality was assessed using the “Effective Public Health Practice Project” tool for quantitative studies. Applied behavior change techniques were identified using the “BCT Taxonomy v1”. Two independent researchers undertook the screening, data extraction, appraisal of study quality, and behavior change techniques.
Results: Nine studies investigating seven unique interventions performed between 2012 and 2018 were included. All studies were rated as weak quality. The narrative synthesis identified 19 applied behavior change techniques clustered in eleven main groups according to their similarities and a variety of 35 different outcome variables classified into seven main groups. Most outcomes were related to active school travel and psychosocial factors, followed by physical fitness, physical activity levels, weight status, active travel and cycling skills. Four studies, examining in total nine different outcomes, found a significant effect in favor of the intervention group on bicycle trips to school (boys only), percentage of daily cycling trips to school, parental/child self-efficacy, parental outcome expectations, moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (total, from cycling, before/after school), and total basic cycling skills. Seven of these outcomes were only examined in two studies conducting the same intervention in children, a voluntary bicycle train to/from school accompanied by adults, including the following clustered main groups of behavior change techniques: shaping knowledge, comparison of behavior, repetition and substitution as well as antecedents.
Conclusions: The applied strategies in a bicycle train intervention among children indicated great potential to increase cycling to school. Our findings provide relevant insights for the design and implementation of future school-based interventions targeting active school transport by bicycle.