The use of electrically assisted bicycles for promoting active transport and health

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Background: Over the past 20-years there has been little change in global physical activity (PA) behaviour despite substantial advocacy efforts. E-cycling has become increasingly popular for personal travel and may offer a means through which to weave PA into daily life.
Aim: The overall aim of this thesis was to explore the use of e-bikes in improving health through increased PA.
Method: Three studies addressed this aim, exploring different, but complementary questions. Study one was a systematic review of the research examining the impact of e-cycling on PA and health. Study two was a scoping review of the evidence examining how and why people use e-bikes and the impact of their use on travel behaviour. Study three was a randomized controlled pilot study to examine the feasibility and acceptability of conducting an e-cycling intervention for individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).
Results: Study one found that e-cycling is a moderate intensity activity that could increase cardiorespiratory fitness in inactive adults. The impact of e-cycling on health outcomes beyond fitness was inconclusive and required further investigation. Study two showed that e-cycling increased the frequency and duration of cycling and could substitute for motorised transportation. However, current evidence relies on self-reported, retrospective measures and objective longitudinal data are needed. Addressing research gaps identified in Studies one and two, Study three demonstrated that conducting an e-cycling intervention is feasible with a 87.5% retention rate, 87.5% attendance at data collection sessions and 62.5% attendance at intervention sessions. Instructors were comfortable delivering the intervention. The intervention provided some evidence of positive clinical, physiological, and behavioural effects.
Conclusion: The findings of this thesis support the use of e-cycling as a means of increasing PA behaviour, with promise to positively impact physical and mental health in inactive and clinical populations. Efforts should be made to ensure that e-cycling is accessible to everyone.
Date of Award28 Sept 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorCharlie Foster (Supervisor), Sam D Leary (Supervisor) & Clare England (Supervisor)

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