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BikeSmart Reading: an award-winning success

BikeSmart Reading: an award-winning success

Reading Borough Council (RBC) wanted to ‘substantially reduce use of conventionally fuelled vehicles through reward rather than punishment’. They also wanted to triple the number of people cycling in Reading. They asked BetterPoints to help and the resulting programme won a Pride of Reading 2017 award and the 2017 Healthy Streets Award for Modal Shift.

BikeSmart Reading was one of a range of measures designed to achieve the aim. It was a 6-month programme to encourage cycling in Reading using the BetterPoints app and behaviour change management system

Funded by the European EMPOWER Project, the intervention ran from 1 March – 31 July 2017 and was open to anyone who lived, worked or studied in Reading.

We created a bespoke, locally branded version of the BetterPoints app and web portal and designed a messaging & reward matrix with a range of incentives (monetary & non-monetary) to achieve desired behaviour change.

Users signed up, downloaded the free app and tracked cycle journeys to earn BetterPoints. Journeys were tracked (either ‘manually’ by the user or using ‘automatic tracking’) using GPS tracking in participants’ mobile phones, verified by sophisticated algorithms and OpenStreetMap data. A validation system avoided misuse of tracking/cheating. BetterPoints could be exchanged instantly for vouchers or donated to charity – the incentives providing immediate feedback for ‘good’ transport behaviour. 

To ensure that the programme was inclusive and no one missed out through lack of a bike, confidence or company we partnered with a number of organisations to address many of the common barriers to cycling.  These included Avanti cycling who provided cycle training (together we delivered over 60 cycle skills workshops), ReadyBike Reading (bike hire) and the charity Sport in Mind with whom we organised weekly led group rides. Love to Ride also ran the Reading Workplace Challenge alongside BikeSmart. To engage with the local community we visited a number of local community events and fairs to promote the programme. 

Rewards were available for a range of activities, including: 

  • Tracking cycle journeys (1mile+, up to 4 per day)
  • Bonuses for 1st and 10th cycle and for referring friends 
  • Participating in cycle training and ‘BikeSmart Skills training (included ‘Back on your Bike Confidence Booster’, ‘Urban Explorer – cycling on roads’ and Basic Bike Maintenance)
  • Medals awarded for reaching set goals
  • Monthly Prize Draws

Over the six month programme more 900 active participants tracked 128,000 cycle journeys covering over 368,000 miles. 142,000 kg of CO2 were potentially mitigated and a quarter of a million calories burned! 

BikeSmart Reading was a success both in terms of the numbers involved and the travel behaviour change – there was a genuine decrease in participants’ single-occupancy car use. It shows that a mix of monetary & non-monetary rewards and incentives, combined with messaging, can positively impact travel behaviour.