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Assessing the impact of the National Cycle Network and physical activity lifestyle on cycling behaviour in England

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posted on 04.08.2015, 15:39 authored by Paul DownwardPaul Downward, Simona RasciuteSimona Rasciute
This paper examines the association between access to National Cycle Network (NCN) routes in England and an individual’s cycling behaviour whilst accounting for their broader physical activity lifestyle and controlling for their socio-economic circumstances. It identifies a positive association between access to these routes and the total minutes of any form of cycling, and the number of days that cycling takes place primarily for recreational purposes. The broader physical activity of individuals also has a positive association with cycling. Walking appears most likely to be complementary to non-recreational cycling, whilst participation in sport with all forms of cycling, but not with longer duration utilitarian trips. The research also indicates that access to NCN routes has the potential to increase such cycling further, with the exception of longer utilitarian trips, as does a more physically active lifestyle, particularly walking. The main policy implications of the research are to recognise that cycling is intrinsically linked to other physical activity, notably, walking, but that the NCN routes measured in this study primarily support longer duration recreational activity, which is also affected by sporting activity. This suggests that one avenue for achieving the health benefits of cycling may be through promoting NCN routes to harness a more generally active lifestyle and particularly in leisure, whilst sustainability may be further promoted through being linked more to other active travel such as walking. There is a therefore a need to exploit the potential of such NCN route provision as part of this promotion.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

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Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice






DOWNWARD, P.M. and RASCIUTE, S., 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, 78, pp.425–437.


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This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice and the definitive published version is available at