How one London suburb reduced its morning traffic by 53%

In England, only 37% of adults ages 16 or older journey actively (stroll, cycle, scoot, or wheel to get from place to position) no less than twice a month. We have to discover thrilling methods to encourage extra individuals to journey actively for the sake of inhabitants and planetary well being.

Active travel might help cut back congestion, air air pollution, and local weather change. Nevertheless, within the U.Okay.—as in lots of international locations the world over—touring by automotive stays the dominant social norm.

Gamification is a promising methodology for encouraging much less automotive use in city areas. [Photo: courtesy of the author]

Our research exhibits that gamification—providing factors, badges, prizes, or spots on a leaderboard in trade for collaborating in particular, non-game-related actions—can encourage individuals to journey actively to highschool or work.

To check this, we arrange a gamification initiative referred to as Beat the Street to see whether or not it may encourage individuals within the London borough of Hounslow to journey actively.


Throughout our sport, which ran from September 18 to October 30, 2019, residents and guests to Hounslow may earn factors by tapping a card on bodily bins positioned all through the borough. Gamers got 10 factors every time they touched two bins consecutively with a card, indicating they’d actively traveled between them. And sure, we made certain to take away any apparent cheaters from the sport.

On the finish of the six-week sport, the highest-scoring people and groups (colleges, group teams, and workplaces) had been rewarded with prizes, reminiscent of vouchers for sports activities gear, craft supplies, or books.

Many members reported strolling way more throughout the sport than they often would. [Photo: courtesy of the author]

We investigated the influence of this sport on energetic journey by taking a look at when individuals performed, evaluating how energetic individuals stated they had been earlier than and after the sport, and utilizing a traffic digital camera to search for a discount in motorized autos touring alongside a regularly congested native highway.


I walked way over I might usually have walked: about 5 instances as a lot. I visited roads that I’ve by no means walked down earlier than and even didn’t know existed and I’ve lived within the borough all my life! —Male participant, age 60-69

Over the course of the sport, 28,219 individuals took half (9.6% of the inhabitants of Hounslow). Collectively, they traveled 96,849 miles.

In whole, members recorded 638,697 faucets on the 161 “beat bins” located all through the borough. Greater than half of those faucets had been made between 8 and eight:59 a.m. and three and three:59 p.m., that are typical durations of journey between dwelling and college or work.

An instance of a beat field, which members tapped with a card. [Photo: courtesy of the author]

To look extra carefully at particular bodily exercise outcomes, we requested 346 adults to finish a bodily exercise questionnaire earlier than and after collaborating within the sport.

These outcomes confirmed that the proportion of members who reported being bodily inactive (outlined as collaborating in fewer than 30 minutes of exercise per week) decreased from 25% pregame to 18% postgame. And the proportion of members who reported assembly the World Well being Group’s target of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week elevated from 62% pregame to 75% postgame.


It definitely was motivational for the children, which then motivated me! As soon as they acquired into it, they wished to stroll all over the place, and began to refuse to go to highschool within the automotive. So we’re strolling to highschool solely now! —Feminine participant, age 30-39

Subsequent, to offer an goal measure of conduct change achieved by way of the sport, we noticed native traffic by way of a monitoring digital camera. We assessed the variety of autos touring in each instructions alongside the often-congested Cambridge Street between 7 and 9:30 a.m. and between 2 and 4:30 p.m.

Individuals within the sport took half in additional bodily exercise general than ordinary. [Photo: courtesy of the author]

The information we collected confirmed that between the week earlier than and the week following Beat the Avenue, 1,199 fewer automobiles (a 53% discount) and 130 fewer vans (additionally a 53% discount) traveled alongside Cambridge Street between 7 and 9:30 a.m., and 705 fewer automobiles (a 34% discount) and 36 fewer vans (a 20% discount) traveled alongside the highway between 2 and 4:30 p.m.

These findings counsel that turning a complete space of a city or metropolis into an interactive sport may very well be a promising strategy to nudge individuals into touring by foot, bicycle, or wheelchair.


It was a really good technique to encourage individuals to stroll and likewise it created a crew. Day-after-day it gave you the keenness to rise up and stroll to lift cash for charity. —Feminine participant, age 70-79

One of many major issues confronted when trying to maneuver individuals away from utilizing automobiles and towards sustainable transport choices is the truth that automobiles point out a high social status, making many reluctant to do away with them.

One other drawback is the ingrained nature of automotive use for brief journeys, the place many individuals instinctively select to drive for comfort or simply as a behavior. Because of this many advised methods to lower automotive utilization, like rising taxes on gas or congestion, aren’t often supported by policymakers, who might worry backlash from interfering with many individuals’s most popular lifestyle.

I used to be selecting to scoot or stroll as an alternative of a automotive trip and I used to be taking longer methods to get dwelling to have the ability to add some factors. —Feminine participant, age 30-39

In gentle of this, gamification can be utilized to create an setting the place behaviors reminiscent of walking, cycling, or wheeling to highschool or work are viewed more positively than automotive use. The mass attraction of community-level competitions like these, which reward energetic journey with factors, badges, and the next place on a frontrunner board, could also be more practical in shifting the social norms of the communities through which they happen.

Marc Harris is a senior researcher in sociology and philosophy of sport at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Diane Crone is a professor in train and well being at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

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