Weekend trips, televisions and Brompton bicycle hire subscriptions are among the rewards available to Wokingham borough residents who join a high-tech new challenge to travel actively and use public transport more instead of driving.
Wokingham Borough Council is urging anyone aged over 14 who lives, works or studies in the area to download the free Innovation Valley Rewards smartphone app, then take part in a local challenge promoted by its My Journey Wokingham team.
This is part of the authority’s ongoing efforts to encourage healthier and more sustainable forms of travel like walking, wheeling, cycling or taking the bus or train, which will reduce congestion on the borough’s roads while improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions.
Making healthy living simpler – and more fun too
Innovation Valley Rewards is easy to use as it can automatically record and categorise journeys using various methods including a device’s GPS and other sensors. Users can choose which journeys they would like to be counted by toggling tracking on and off at any time.
They can earn ValleyCoins, a kind of virtual “currency”, which add up based on how much time they spend travelling in a greener way. These be redeemed for vouchers with high street retailers or donated to a preferred charity instead.
They can also earn ValleyTickets when using public transport to enter weekly and monthly prize draws for “pots” of ValleyCoins worth anything from £2.50 to £100.
The app can being use alongside or instead of other fitness trackers as, if users wish, it automatically works out their travel method based on speed, location, route and other journey information.
They have the option of confirming this is correct at the end of each trip although, to ensure a convenient and unobtrusive experience, the app uses notifications sparingly and clears them overnight.
It records how much time they’ve spent travelling actively compared with NHS guidelines and calculates the number of calories they’ve burned as well as the weight of carbon emissions they’ve saved.
The app can offer personalised suggestions, based on users’ current habits, on how they could include more activity or public transport usage in their daily lives, and will inspire others by encouraging residents to share success stories as they make these positive changes.
It is developed by BetterPoints, a socially-driven company that works with local authorities and other organisations to help people reduce their reliance on cars, while the My Journey Wokingham challenge has been added with funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as part of a scheme to improve air quality.
Make a greener change to your lifestyle today
Innovation Valley Rewards can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or the Google Play store, depending on the users’ device. Anyone registering with a Wokingham borough postcode is automatically invited to join the local challenge, which can be accessed through the “Challenges” tab at the bottom of the screen.
Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, executive member for highways and transport, said: “We’re pleased to be promoting this app and hope that once residents download it, they will see for themselves how fun and easy it can be to leave the car at home more often.
“By offering rewards and getting people in Wokingham borough excited about the subject, we’re confident we can inspire long-term behaviour changes that will get people living more healthily while making our borough cleaner and greener.
“Additionally, a reduction in the number of vehicle trips will reduce pressure on our roads, which combined with our other forward-thinking efforts to tackle congestion will play a key role in keeping traffic on the network moving. It takes just seconds to install the app while the benefits could last a lifetime – so why not give it a go today?”
A smarter way of keeping our borough moving
The app is part of the national ADEPT Smart Places LiveLabs initiative, a £22.9 million project funded by the Department for Transport and carried out in partnership with businesses and other local authorities across the Thames Valley.
This uses digital innovation and technology to tackle problems like traffic congestion, air pollution and energy waste while promoting cleaner, healthier and more eco-friendly lifestyles.
By gathering data from a number of sources, councils can monitor air quality, check road surfaces, predict where potholes might develop, identify congestion hotspots and decide which improvements would have the most positive impact.
Other “smart” measures now being rolled out across Wokingham borough include traffic lights with cameras and sensors which can vary their signal timings based on how busy a road or junction is.
The council is investing millions of pounds in building major new roads or improving existing ones to meet the demands of new housing, which it has to build under its Local Plan to meet Government requirements, but it recognises the need to do all it reasonably can to reduce vehicle journeys.
It is developing networks of cycleways and greenways, the latter of which are generally traffic-free routes serving pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users as well as horse riders in certain sections, while promoting these travel modes through My Journey Wokingham.
The council is working with bus companies to improve services and attract more passengers through its bus service improvement plan, which aspires to help operators adopt more environmentally fleets.
These measures combined will both improve air quality and help the council meet its pledge to do all it can to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
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