Local car-free project gets commuters cycling

Twenty employees at the MoD site at Donnington are piloting an innovative new project called Active SMiles, which uses behavioural science principles to incentivise and reward ‘active commuting’ – ditching the car and walking or cycling to work instead.

Local car-free project gets commuters cycling

The project was designed and is run by the Telford & Wrekin Council’s Health Protection Hub and the Health Improvement Team, in conjunction with Travel Telford.

Research has shown that there will be benefits to the employees in terms of their physical and mental health and the money they will save on fuel, and also to wider society in terms of improved air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions and to employers through the reduced sickness absences experienced by active commuters.

Although walking or cycling for shorter journeys has many benefits over using the car, car usage is so entrenched in our way of life and the perceived barriers to walking or cycling are given so much prominence, that people can be put-off trying it. It was felt that giving people an incentive to try it for a month, with a view to them sustaining this change longer term, was key to shifting them to these sustainable forms of commuting. The twenty participants will be rewarded with £50 in supermarket vouchers if they walk or cycle to or from work ten times during the month of October, with the incentive designed to help the participants with the cost of living issues people are currently facing.

The council is seeking funding to extend the scheme and will be looking to run it with a larger group of employers next year.

Rebecca Thomas-Nye, a Technical Apprentice from Babcock International based in Donnington, who is taking part in the pilot, said:

“I am looking to live a healthier lifestyle and combining that with my concerns over climate change I thought I would be proactive and take part in the pilot of Active SMiles. 

“The ride into work is great, all down hill with the wind in my hair, however the journey back not so much. This is where the hard work comes in. As the saying goes, no pain no gain!

“I am hopeful that with each ride back it will get easier and the benefits will show in how I feel. I hope to carry on cycling to work after the completion of Active SMiles and that it becomes the norm for me to do so.”

Cllr Richard Overton (Labour), deputy leader and cabinet member for housing, enforcement and transport, said:

“This is a super scheme and I very much hope it will nudge these individuals into reducing their reliance on cars over the longer term, supporting our vision to make Telford and Wrekin carbon neutral by 2030, improve their health and local air quality, and lead the way in showing others what’s possible.”