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'Beat the Street' Initiative, UK

‘Beat the Street’ (BTS) was a walking initiative designed to increase physical activity by changing travel behaviour in Thurrock and its 52 schools. We managed the project in partnership with Thurrock Council’s public health team.

Schoolchildren in Thurrock
Changing travel behaviour in Thurrock, UK
Changing travel behaviour in Thurrock, UK The 'Beat the Street' challenge involved walking a 25,000-mile journey, equivalent to one lap around the globe, over six weeks between 11 June and 22 July 2014.

70,126 miles were covered during the project (nearly three times the target)

In total, 8,500 school children
and 6102 adults participated
Winner of the Best Smarter Travel Marketing Campaign 2015

Travel Thurrock undertook research which found that, even though half of pupils live within walking distance of their school, 1,500 of them were driven there and back daily. Additionally, around 70% of people aged 16 years and above were considered to be overweight, while only 54% complete the recommended levels of physical activity each week. This inactivity was having significantly negative impacts on health, and the cost of inactivity to Thurrock Council alone was estimated at around £2.8M per year. To help improve these outcomes, we worked with Thurrock Council to deliver the BTS programme: a real-life walking game recorded on a live website.

The project involved completing the challenge of walking a 25,000-mile journey, equivalent to one lap around the globe, over six weeks. Even though the project focused specifically on primary school children it had wider effects due to high engagement with parents, media and businesses in the community. Nearly 15,000 people were involved.

Across the borough 104 ‘Beat boxes’ – infrastructure installed on equipment to log distance travelled – were strategically positioned to encourage people to explore paths and parks in their local area or on their way to school. Participants collected points and miles by swiping their ‘Beat card’ against the box. The location of Beat boxes could be found using the Travel Thurrock app, which was further enhanced to support the BTS initiative.

Value and benefits

  • 85% participants stated that BTS helped them walk more than usual and 74% sustained this change. This showed the campaign was effective at embedding a change of travel behaviour.
  • 51% participants confirmed that BTS helped them use the car less than usual and 47% sustained this change.
  • Prior to the intervention, 36% met the Department of Health's physical activity guidelines. This increased to 43% soon after BTS, and to 46% two months later.
  • 61% of participants commented that BTS made them feel healthier.
  • 55% indicated that BTS helped them explore the local area further.

The NICE Return on Investment assessment showed that, within two years, for every £1 spent on the campaign:

  • £19.63 will be recouped in health benefits and £4.76 in transport cost saving. Adult productivity will be increased as a result of reduced sick days.
  • Overall, 101 QALY’s have been calculated to be gained.
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