Radfahrer in der Stadt Salzburg

How nudging and gamification impact urban mobility and sustainable behaviour

Can people be encouraged to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle with digital tools? The research results are promising: a personal mobility app with playful elements and incentives motivates people to cycle more and use sustainable services in the city.

Many cities are trying to integrate the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals into their policies. In doing so, they are confronted with numerous challenges: One of the biggest challenges is the adjustment of the “modal split”, the distribution of traffic among different modes or means of transport.

Car use still dominates in cities and their surrounding areas – and transport is responsible for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe.

– Study-author Claudia Luger-Bazinger, Salzburg Research

Therefore, cities want to change the mobility behaviour of their citizens. Promoting sustainable behaviour or only informing about it, however, does not motivate sufficiently.

“We have therefore investigated how motivational techniques using data from a personal mobility tracker can be used to influence citizens’ personal mobility,” innovation researcher Luger-Bazinger continues. Within the European research project SimpliCITY, effective strategies were developed to promote sustainable behaviour. Citizens were addressed by means of a mobility app with behavioural incentives and playful functions.

Using nudging and gamification to change behaviour

Methods such as gamification and nudging were used to guide behaviour while maintaining the freedom of choice.

Gamification can motivate users to engage more regularly and change their behaviour. “In the prototypically developed and tested mobility app, users received reward points – so-called “heartbeats” for activities such as using regional offers, solving quizzes and puzzles, and using the mobility tracker while cycling. The users collected the reward points together for their respective district,” says innovation researcher Luger-Bazinger.

Nudging is a strategy that aims to change people’s behaviour without threats or punishment. People’s behaviour is steered in a desired direction, while people remain free to make their own decisions. “In particular, people tend to change their behaviour when a social group with which there is a strong identification exhibits a certain behaviour. In our case, the community using the personal mobility app can serve as a relevant social group,” says Luger Bazinger.


Overall, the results are encouraging about the effectiveness of using nudging and gamification techniques in a personal mobility app to promote cycling in a city. A combination of contextual data, such as weather data, and nudging could be most successful,” says innovation researcher Claudia Luger-Bazinger. This idea is now also being pursued in another research project, Dynamic Mobility Nudge (DyMoN). Salzburg Research is in charge of the project and Claudia Luger-Bazinger designs the nudging strategies.

The success also benefits from identification with a community: with the app, users become part of a neighbourhood community and thus motivated to behave more sustainably. They explored sustainable offers, consumed regionally produced goods or local environmental protection services and moved around the city more by bicycle.

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