Can an online walking challenge deliver transport benefits? Can an online walking challenge deliver transport benefits?

Published 11 December 2018

The time has come, at the end of another successful Auckland Walk Challenge, to reflect on the journey so far.

Based on feedback from participants surveyed after the March Walk Challenge, a decision was made to shift the Challenge to the spring, generally associated with better weather and the beginning of daylight savings. Despite a short registration timeframe, another 5,000+ people registered to take part.

“1,000 teams walked 900 million steps, which is almost to the moon and back,” said Challenge Administrator Paul Whitfield. “We’re now looking forward to finding out if participants continue walking through the summer months and make walking a long-term travel choice.”

The Auckland Walk Challenge was established to encourage people to walk for transport rather than simply recreation, and to support Auckland Transport’s wider strategic objective to promote public transport and active transport modes to combat traffic congestion.

Originating from the annual Walk to Work Day, the Auckland Walk Challenge presented a month-long activity designed to promote long-term travel behaviour change. Participants were encouraged to leave the car at home and walk to work, to the city centre and make short short local trips.

Unable to find a platform designed with the specific aim of increasing walking for transport (such as the Love to Ride platform used for the Auckland Bike Challenge), AT used an existing online platform built to encourage walking for health and fitness. The platform was reskinned and tailored to fit specific Auckland Challenge requirements from registration questions and prompts to regular emails with participants and surveys. Teams could track their day-to-day progress alongside total kilometres walked while competing in teams to walk the virtual length of New Zealand from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

When the Auckland Walk Challenge went online in March 2017, AT immediately connected with more than 5,000 participants from corporates and communities across Auckland. The Challenge was repeated in March 2018, and for the second time recruited over 5,000 people in less than a month. A decision was made to move the Challenge to Spring and in November 2018 another 5,000 entrants were recruited.

The online format means AT is able to collect a raft of valuable data about how the Challenge influences walking behaviour. Anecdotal stories have also been collected from participants cancelling car parking or selling their cars to walking their children to school.

Evaluation data from the March 2018 Challenge showed 72% chose to walk when where they would have previously taken the car. 73% reported an improvement in health and wellbeing.

While participants’ primary motivator to take part may not have been to walk for transport, by participating in the Challenge they increasingly substituted motorised journeys with walking.

Due to the success of the Spring Challenge we plan to continue to hold it in spring going forward.