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Edit 06 December 2023
by Pietro L. Verga, UIA Expert

Advancing Urban Mobility: Challenges, Progress, and Policy Implications of Air-Break Motivational Campaigns – Zoom-In 2

oldschool videogame style image
credit: FBK
In this Zoom-In, UIA Expert Pietro L. Verga navigates through the transformative impact of FBK's Air-Break Sustainable Mobility Motivational Campaigns.

Delving into four distinctive initiatives—Ferrara Play&Go, Bike2Work, High-School Mobility Challenge, and Kids Go Green—this exploration unfolds their collective influence in motivating 1.2 million sustainable kilometres and averting 265 tonnes of CO2 emissions. From illuminating behavioural shifts to evaluating campaign success and seamlessly integrating extensive datasets into GIS platforms, this analysis offers insights for policymakers and practitioners, fostering strategies for inclusive and impactful sustainable urban policymaking.

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SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY MOTIVATIONAL CAMPAIGNS

Within Air-Break, project partner FBK (Bruno Kessler Foundation) designed and implemented four distinct sustainable mobility campaigns. These campaigns targeted various mobility contexts encompassing home-to-work and home-to-school commuting, engaging employees, students, and the wider public in leisure and free-time mobility endeavours.

  1. Ferrara Play&Go: This enduring gamified urban mobility initiative champions voluntary travel behaviour change. Participants utilise a mobile app to track sustainable journeys, validated automatically and rewarded with virtual points (green leaves). These points are earned based on tracked kilometres and the sustainability of transportation means, integrating standard game elements with personalised content tailored to encourage positive behavioural shifts.
  2. Ferrara Bike2Work: A home-to-work mobility campaign aimed at employees from Ferrara's public and private sectors. Rolled out amidst the challenges of the Covid-19 crisis, the campaign, ongoing from May 2021 to October 2023, incentivises bicycle use through economic rewards. Implemented within the Air-Break project by FBK through the Play&Go Aziende platform, it facilitates economic incentives for employees' bike commutes, supported by a software platform for Mobility Managers to manage data and track progress.
  3. Play&Go – High School Mobility Challenge: Running concurrently with Play&Go, this campaign engages high school students in a class-level competition. Students register for the game, contributing their sustainable home-to-school and free-time trips to their class's performance in the competition, offering rewards for the most successful class.
  4. Kids Go Green: An educational tool developed by Fondazione B. Kessler, Kids Go Green aims to shift attitudes towards environmental sustainability among children, families, and communities. This initiative fosters eco-friendly mobility habits as an engaging, social experience, encouraging a modal shift from cars to sustainable options like walking, biking, and public transport for home-to-school trips. Engaging the entire school community, it incentivises sustainable trips through a virtual educational journey, unlocking stops for in-class learning upon achieving sustainable milestones.

For comprehensive details on the four motivational campaigns, refer to my web article, 'Playing Together Towards Sustainable Mobility: The Air-Break Gamification Experience'.

During the period from May 2021 to October 2023, the Air-Break campaigns collectively spurred sustainable journeys covering nearly 1.2 million kilometres, averaging around 40,000 kilometres per month. This effort resulted in a noteworthy reduction of almost 265 tonnes of CO2 emissions, averaging approximately 8.83 tonnes per month. Referencing Table 1 will offer a detailed breakdown of these campaigns' outcomes.

Table 1 – Key results of the four motivational campaigns
Campaign Results
Ferrara Play&Go
  • 2 editions (2022, 2023)
  • 2.455 active players
  • 398.159 Kms
  • 88.956 trips
  • 89,9 tonnes of CO2 saved
Ferrara Bike2Work
  • 920 employees from 70 companies
  • 641.394 Kms by bike
  • 162.213 trips by bike
  • 173 tonnes of CO2 saved
High- School Mobility Challenge 
  • 168 students from 10 classes
  • 7 teams
  • 9.236 Kms
  • 3.041 sustainable trips
  • 1,93 tonnes of CO2 saved
Kids Go Green 
  • 3 editions over 3 school years
  • 535 pupils from 28 classes
  • 94.945 Kms 
  • >50% reduction of car trips

Particularly notable was the Ferrara Play&Go campaign's recent iteration, running from mid-April to mid-September 2023. Engaging 258 participants, this campaign collectively accomplished 148,716 sustainable kilometres, equivalent to circling the globe 3.7 times. This joint effort significantly contributed to reducing CO2 emissions by nearly 32.9 tonnes. For a comprehensive insight into the transportation modes utilised during these sustainable journeys, see Figure 1.

Figure 1 – Sustainable trips during the last Play&Go Campaign. Source: FBK
Figure 1 – Sustainable trips during the last Play&Go Campaign. Source: FBK

Beyond quantitative achievements, these campaigns facilitated substantial behavioural shifts. Figure 2 showcases the impact: 86% of users were motivated to reconsider their mobility habits, with 53% adopting more sustainable commuting practices and 55% integrating sustainability into their leisure activities. Impressively, 90% expressed their commitment to sustaining these new habits into the future.

Figure 2 – Impact on participants' behaviours and habits. Source: FBK
Figure 2 – Impact on participants' behaviours and habits. Source: FBK

 

The campaigns' evaluations carried out by FBK (see: A. Bucchiarone, S. Bassanelli, and A. Marconi, 2023) highlighted robust user feedback on rewards, fun levels, and behaviour. A well-executed reward system proved pivotal in sustaining enjoyable, gamified solutions for long-term behavioural change.
Intrinsic motivations align well with in-game rewards (e.g., badges, points), while external incentives suit mandatory or long-term activities. However, poorly implemented external rewards risk dampening motivation.
Notably, in Ferrara Bike2Work, economic incentives significantly upheld enjoyable behaviours. Play&Go's rewarding system, combining in-game rewards and economic incentives, strongly influenced fun levels and behavioural outcomes. Similarly, Kids Go Green demonstrated significant links between rewards, fun, and behavioural outcomes.
Overall, Project Partner FBK analyses affirm balanced implementations of in-game rewards and economic incentives across campaigns, particularly in FERRARA PLAY&GO, where users indicated a desire to continue sustainable behaviours. Moreover, in-game rewards emerged as key drivers for sustained behaviour change. 

After the conclusion of all campaigns, a comprehensive survey, conducted by the Author in collaboration with FBK, engaged participants of both Play&Go and Bike2Work through in-app notifications, resulting in 29 valid responses. It's important to note that this subset may not fully represent the entire spectrum of app users during the campaign period; most respondents likely fell into the categories of 'committed cyclists' or 'enthusiastic app users.' Figure 3 demonstrates considerable overlap between participants of Play&Go and Bike2Work, indicating a substantial engagement across both initiatives.

Figure 3 – Number of Participants per Campaign
Figure 3 – Number of Participants per Campaign

Of note, Figure 4  highlights interesting trends: while approximately 59% of respondents maintained their pre-campaign biking habits, a significant proportion—31%—reported increased cycling activity. Impressively, 10% even switched to cycling as their primary mode of transport.

Figure 4 – Changes in biking habits post-campaigns
Figure 4 – Changes in biking habits post-campaigns

Further insights from Figure 5 indicate Play&Go's success in heightening environmental awareness among respondents. However, it's essential to consider the majority of participants were already active cyclists pre-campaign, potentially influencing their views on rewards as motivators.

Figure 5 – Impact of Play&Go on users' biking habits
Figure 5 – Impact of Play&Go on users' biking habits

Figure 6 and Figure 7 spotlight post-campaign behavioural shifts, notably an increase in regular bike commuters and those adopting cycling as their primary transportation. There's also a notable rise in people consistently using bicycles to transport children to school, potentially linked to the Kids Go Green campaign.
Moreover, post-campaign data reveals interesting changes in biking habits. There's an observable shift towards more regular and longer-distance biking, evident by a decrease in those riding fewer than 100 km/year while all three upper tiers have seen an increase, indicating a shift towards more frequent and longer bike journeys post-campaign.

Figure 6 – Types of bicycle usage
Figure 6 – Types of bicycle usage
Figure 7 – Extent of bicycle usage (km/year)
Figure 7 – Extent of bicycle usage (km/year)

 

In the pursuit of fostering sustainable urban mobility, FBK has encountered a spectrum of challenges while implementing campaigns, each presenting an opportunity for valuable insights and advancement.
One of the most prominent hurdles faced by FBK relates to securing prizes for the Play&Go city initiative. Initial success in engaging local entities during the first edition was starkly contrasted by difficulties experienced in subsequent editions, primarily due to economic downturns. This economic strain significantly impacted contributions from local businesses, prompting a revaluation of strategies to incentivize participation during challenging economic climates.
Promoting initiatives like the Play&Go city and High School Challenge posed another considerable challenge. Traditional promotional channels showed limitations, necessitating a reimagining of communication strategies. Augmenting social media presence and active collaboration with associations passionate about sustainable urban mobility emerged as promising approaches for broader outreach and engagement.
An integral aspect of FBK's endeavours revolved around the tracking and validation of trips, with experiences in Ferrara playing a pivotal role in refining algorithms. However, persistent challenges persist in regions with inadequate GPS coverage and mobile phone systems limiting vital information access. Overcoming these technological barriers demands concerted efforts to ensure seamless tracking and validation processes.
However, amid these challenges, certain factors have proven pivotal in enhancing participant satisfaction and revealing crucial insights. Personalisation emerged as transformative, providing tailored experiences based on user preferences and performance. This customisation not only heightened motivation but also prompted behavioural shifts, underscoring the importance of catering to diverse user groups through incentives and personalised challenges.
Notably, while the primary focus has been on environmental impact, participant feedback highlighted the campaigns' positive influence on health. Participants embraced active mobility options like walking and cycling, showcasing the broader health benefits inherent in sustainable transportation initiatives.
For policymakers, these insights serve as guiding principles. Fostering partnerships with local businesses during economic downturns, exploring innovative communication strategies, and investing in technological infrastructures are imperative to facilitate successful execution of sustainable urban mobility initiatives.
In conclusion, FBK's journey in implementing these campaigns underscores the intricate challenges and promising solutions within the realm of urban mobility. Leveraging personalisation, addressing economic barriers, and embracing technological advancements will undoubtedly steer towards more impactful and inclusive mobility initiatives.

SO WHAT FOR POLICYMAKING?

Play&Go and Bike2Work have delivered significant impacts by utilising extensive open-source datasets to support informed decision-making for policymakers, urban planners, and designers.
Once anonymised and aggregated, the data collected through the app seamlessly integrated into the MUA’s GIS platform, enabling a broad spectrum of analyses and cross-referencing with available datasets.
Notably, Play&Go and Bike2Work provided georeferenced insights into cycling traffic across all of Ferrara’s roads at varying levels. These insights encompassed a comprehensive average count, monthly data from September 2020 onwards, and average counts for each day of the week. This data facilitated several practical applications.

Understanding users' dynamics and traffic patterns is pivotal in crafting cyclist-centric urban environments. Figure 8 and Figure 9, showcasing cyclists' average road usage on Wednesday and Sunday respectively, uncover nuanced distinctions between commuting and leisure cycling behaviors. This comparative analysis unveils usage patterns, providing invaluable insights into urban cycling preferences.

The ability to disentangle these usage patterns offers a rich tapestry of information for effective urban planning and infrastructure development. Distinguishing between routes favored by commuters during the workweek and those embraced for leisure on weekends enables city planners to tailor infrastructure and amenities accordingly. This nuanced integration aligns infrastructure with the diverse needs of cyclists throughout the week, fostering cycling-friendly cities that holistically cater to residents' preferences and routines.

Figure 8 – Average road usage by cyclists on a Wednesday. Source: Author's elaboration from MUA's GIS
Figure 8 – Average road usage by cyclists on a Wednesday. Source: Author's elaboration from MUA's GIS
Figure 9 – Average road usage by cyclists on a Sunday. Source: Author's elaboration from MUA's GIS
Figure 9 – Average road usage by cyclists on a Sunday. Source: Author's elaboration from MUA's GIS

Combining Play&Go user data within the city's GIS layers provides a holistic understanding of cyclists' preferences and behaviors, crucial for identifying specific needs and interventions essential in creating safer and more tailored urban environments. Figure 10 presents an intersection of popular cycling routes with urban greenery, revealing critical insights into the shading needs along these paths. The overlaying of cycling route data with urban greenery layers serves as a powerful tool for assessing and addressing shading deficiencies.

Specifically, the illustration highlights a prominent absence of shading along via Bologna, a vital commuting artery linking the city center to the southern region. This revelation underscores the significance of integrating green infrastructure along high-traffic cycling corridors. It emphasizes the necessity of enhancing shading provisions along these critical routes to ensure a more comfortable and safer cycling experience for commuters.

By identifying such gaps in shading along popular cycling routes, urban planners and policymakers gain a comprehensive understanding of where improvements in greenery and shading infrastructure are urgently needed. This integration of cycling route information with urban greenery not only enhances safety but also contributes to fostering more sustainable and cyclist-friendly urban environments.

Figure 10 – Popular cycling routes and urban greenery
Figure 10 – Popular cycling routes and urban greenery. Source: Author's elaboration from MUA's GIS

Analyzing traffic trends over varying months and years enabled a comprehensive assessment of the effectiveness of newly implemented infrastructures on traffic flow. The comparison of popular cycling routes with cyclist-related accident data, as depicted in Figures 11 and 12, provided critical insights into the repercussions of the Smart Bike Lane's introduction along via Mulinetto in October 2023, specifically within the Tecnopolo area.

Figure 11 – Cycling traffic in the Tecnopolo Area in October 2022. Source: Author's elaboration from MUA's GIS
Figure 11 – Cycling traffic in the Tecnopolo Area in October 2022. Source: Author's elaboration from MUA's GIS
Figure 12 – Cycling traffic in the Tecnopolo Area in October 2023. Source: Author's elaboration from MUA's GIS
Figure 12 – Cycling traffic in the Tecnopolo Area in October 2023. Source: Author's elaboration from MUA's GIS

This evaluation revealed a tangible impact: the newly established Smart Bike Lane significantly mitigated traffic flow on previously accident-prone roads. Notably, it effectively diverted cyclists onto a safer and protected route, thereby minimizing potential risks and accidents. This shift in traffic patterns showcased the positive influence of the infrastructure upgrade on the safety and efficiency of cycling routes within the area.

By juxtaposing cycling routes with accident data, this analysis underscored the direct correlation between infrastructural enhancements and the redirection of cyclist traffic. It highlights the importance of strategically planning and implementing cycling infrastructure to improve safety and optimize traffic flow, ultimately creating a more secure and conducive environment for cyclists.

***

In summary, Play&Go and Bike2Work's integration of extensive datasets into the city's GIS platform facilitated diverse analyses, from assessing shading needs along routes to evaluating infrastructure impacts and distinguishing commuting from leisure routes. These insights offer valuable guidance for urban planning and infrastructure development, highlighting the pivotal role of these datasets in informed decision-making for urban mobility.

CONCLUSIONS

The Air-Break sustainable mobility campaigns, orchestrated by project partner FBK (Bruno Kessler Foundation), encompassed four distinct initiatives targeting various mobility contexts, engaging employees, students, and the wider public in sustainable commuting, leisure, and free-time mobility endeavours.
The comprehensive engagement of Ferrara Play&Go, Bike2Work, the High-School Mobility Challenge, and Kids Go Green campaigns showcased commendable achievements in fostering sustainable urban mobility. Collectively, from May 2021 to October 2023, these campaigns motivated nearly 1.2 million kilometres of sustainable journeys, averting almost 265 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Each campaign, detailed in Table 1, demonstrated distinct impacts and contributions towards mitigating environmental footprints.
Particularly noteworthy was the Ferrara Play&Go campaign's recent iteration, yielding 148,716 sustainable kilometres and significantly contributing to reducing CO2 emissions by 32.9 tonnes during its operational phase. Beyond quantitative milestones, these initiatives spurred substantial behavioural shifts, with a notable percentage of users expressing sustained commitment to adopting more sustainable mobility practices.
The robust evaluations conducted by FBK highlighted the pivotal role of well-designed reward systems in sustaining enjoyable, gamified solutions for long-term behavioural change. The campaigns showcased balanced implementations of in-game rewards and economic incentives, notably influencing fun levels and behavioural outcomes across various demographic segments.
Moreover, the integration of extensive datasets into Ferrara's GIS platform, illustrated in Figures 8 to 12, facilitated comprehensive analyses of cycling traffic patterns and provided valuable insights for urban planning and infrastructure development. These datasets empower policymakers, urban planners, and designers to make informed decisions, assessing shading needs, evaluating new infrastructures' impacts on traffic, and distinguishing commuting from leisure routes.
Despite encountered challenges related to economic downturns impacting local contributions, limitations in traditional promotional channels, and technological barriers in tracking and validating trips, lessons learned include the pivotal role of personalisation in enhancing participant satisfaction and promoting broader health benefits through active mobility options.
In conclusion, the journey of implementing these campaigns underscores the intricate challenges and promising solutions in fostering sustainable urban mobility. Leveraging personalisation, addressing economic barriers, and embracing technological advancements are crucial elements for successful and inclusive mobility initiatives, offering valuable insights for policymakers steering sustainable urban policymaking. The seamless integration of extensive datasets into GIS platforms is instrumental in supporting informed decision-making, ultimately contributing to the advancement of sustainable urban mobility solutions.

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