Green transportation methods like walking, biking, and taking public transportation reduces carbon emissions and improve air quality for residents, but encouraging people to choose these options over personal vehicles is a challenge. One neighborhood in London has finally cracked the code on green transportation: make it a game.
The London borough of Hounslow launched an initiative called Beat the Street in 2019 to try and get residents to bike and walk more. They placed card-reading boxes around town and gave residents cards to scan at each box. Every time a resident touched two boxes, they received points for using green transportation to travel between the locations. At the end of the six-week trial period, individuals, schools, and businesses with the most points were given prizes like books and vouchers for sports and crafting materials.
All in all, the researchers were able to recruit 28,219 participants and found that the playful boxes reduced car traffic by 53 percent during morning commute hours and 34 percent during evening commute hours. Additionally, the number of participants who reported being physically inactive (engaging in less than 30 minutes of exercise per week) dropped from 25 to 18 percent.
This study not only demonstrates the power of gamification in getting people to make greener transportation choices but also shows how engaging people in community-oriented transportation schemes boost involvement and enthusiasm. The relatively low cost of box installation and prize distribution also makes this an easy program to implement in nearly any city.
This story is part of our ‘Best of 2021’ series highlighting our top solutions from the year. Today we’re featuring science solutions.