Can Discounts Convince Londoners to Bike and Walk?

Posted by Sarah Laskow

brit bike
Punch a destination into re:route, a new app from eco-rewards company Recyclebank, and it will provide several options. You could walk to the subway, take it to your stop, pick up a bike from the bike share, and ride to your destination. You could get off the subway a stop early and walk. You could ride your own bike, or walk halfway and pick up a bike to get you the rest of the way there. 

Whichever path you choose, you're not using your car. As a reward for making that decision you’ll receive a reward at the end of each journey—5 Recyclebank points, which can be combined and exchanged for discounts on a slew of products.

The app is supported in part by Transport for London, the government agency that oversees every aspect of how Londoners get around. The agency has been working for years to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by building out bike infrastructure, setting congestion pricing, and introducing hybrid buses. The agency also aims to increase biking rates 400 percent between 2000 and 2025, and walking by a quarter. And while taking the subway is good too, the city's trains are already congested, and this summer's Olympics may push them to their limits.

With re:route, Recyclebank aims to push people off of their well-worn paths. “When it comes to commuting, you commute by force of habit,” says Ian Yolles, the company’s chief sustainability officer. “It's become such a habit that you get to the end of your journey and you don't remember getting there.” The app, the company hopes, will make people rethink their journeys. It also tells users how much carbon they avoided, time they saved, and calories they burned. 

If that’s not incentive enough, the points provide an additional justification for the app. To start, every journey will earn the same number of points, but routes with lower carbon emissions or that avoid rush hour traffic might eventually earn more points, for instance.

This point system is at the heart of Recyclebank’s business: Company founders believe they can convince people to take green actions by attaching rewards to them. In London, Recyclebank recruited rewards partners like department store Marks & Spencer and local bike shops. 

The new app will be part of Transport for London’s communications campaign leading up to the Olympics, and the company aims to enroll more than 100,000 users in the coming months. The app isn't specific to London, either. Now that the framework is complete, Recyclebank could easily adapt it to help New Yorkers or Angelenos make their own daily journeys more environmentally responsible.

“It's pretty easy for us to take what we've done and provide city-specific content and data,” Yolles says. “If we wanted to bring it to San Francisco or Chicago or Boston or Washington or New York, we've designed it with that in mind.”

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Akuppa