Lessons learned from two Baron Mobility Challenges in Oldenburg using a mobile app
Griet Vanwynsberghe & Julie Tieberghien (VIVES)
With the BITS-project, we aim to raise awareness of good practices of smart cycling, and to benefit from each other’s experiences. In the past 2 years, several ITS pilots have been installed in various cities in Europe and now, the first ITS-interventions are being evaluated by VIVES University of Applied Sciences (BE).
This article discusses the main lessons learned during the implementation of an interactive mobile application in Oldenburg. By means of two different pilots, Baron Mobility aimed to collect data about the cycling use among two target groups (citizens and employees) and to measure the effectiveness of a mobile app in pursuing people to modify their cycling behaviors. The two pilots, the Oldenburg Bicycle Challenge and the Company Challenge, are described more in depth in a previous article.
The lessons learned capture the experiences of both the app users and the project managers about this ITS implementation. As will become clear, some conclusions are parallel for both app-oriented pilots; some conclusions differ between the two pilots.
Effective to encourage cycling
Let’s start on a positive note: At least one out of five users indicated to actually cycle more since using the app. Even more app users, up to 50%, reported that they are willing to cycle more in the future. Taking into account the longer distances cycled and the higher frequency of use, the pilots have led to a higher number of km cycled/day among active participants in the Challenges. This successful effect was most outspoken for commuters in the Company Challenge.
Create short and well-defined challenges
While the Oldenburg Bicycle Challenge ran for a year and included a monthly challenge, the Company Challenge only ran for six weeks during Spring/Summer. The internal challenges, as part of the Company Challenge, were even shorter. Overall, creating clearly defined and short challenges seems to be most effective in keeping app users in a challenge motivated. Many registered participants in the Oldenburg Bicycle Challenge did not continue their engagement during the challenges. Of course, an important note here is that there might have been the influence of the COVID-19 restrictions – especially during autumn and winter periods, which may have discouraged people to cycle more often during the challenge and/or to continue any engagement.
Tracking and competition features stimulate cycling motivation
What motivates the cyclists most to use the app during the challenges? Being able to record their routes via the app as well as being able to see their own statistics in the app such as distance, CO2 savings and calorie consumption have the most impact on the motivation to continue using the app, and indirectly to cycle more. The opportunity to network and cycle together with colleagues by the use of ITS technology as well as being able to check the ranking with other participants were also put forward as important features by the commuters in the Company Challenge. Overall, it was very clear that the app users were far less motivated by earning discounts and winning prizes, which was one of the main features of the Challenges. Maybe this feature only works well for a specific target group?
Uptake of cycling is still a challenge
Not surprisingly, the active participants in the challenges already had an interest in cycling - whether this was for commuting or for shopping or leisure activities. At least half of the participants reported to cycle more than once a week at the start of the challenges. While this type of ITS clearly has a positive impact on the cycling behavior of existing and regular cyclists -due to the many more km and longer distances cycled, it also needs to be acknowledged that the impact on the uptake of cycling by new cyclists is not that clear-cut.
To conclude, if we look at the overall objectives of the BITS-project, we may conclude that the main goals of the two Baron pilots were successfully reached!