Professor Creates App To Encourage Active Student Travel
“Save time, save money, improve your health.”
Those are just some of the goals detailed by the Twitter account of Penn State’s new travel campaign Active Lions, which launched earlier this semester.
The idea for the free smartphone app stemmed from the lab research of Associate Professor of Kinesiology Melissa Bopp, after she looked at what influences people to actively travel by cycling or walking. Once she had gathered enough research, Bopp said she felt she was able to create an app that would become a “useful tool” to students in getting them to actively travel more often.
One of the features of Active Lions includes a route-planning option, which helps students find the best way to get to and from a destination in the State College and Penn State areas. For cyclists, it also details the best bike lanes and off-street routes to take. This option was created to help students plan for their days by giving them the best way to travel within a reasonable amount of time.
“Some [students] may overestimate how long a trip may take, so they are pleasantly surprised that there are options that take less time,” she said.
Other features of the app include weather conditions during time of travel, money saved, pounds of carbon saved, and amount of calories burned. With such an array of benefits, different users can have wildly different reasons to actively travel.
“[Penn State’s] staff may have more interest in the health benefits, whereas students may be interested in the money-saving or green benefits,” she said.
Under the “Community” section of the app, users can see how much others have logged. As of Thursday night, there were more cycling trips logged than walking, but the opposite usually happens when students report how they travel on campus. Bopp said that throughout her research, students reported that they feel deterred from riding their bicycles to campus for a number of reasons, including how dangerous it can be.
The collected data will help to suggest how the app is utilized by users, and it will ultimately determine if the app will expand its use. Commonwealth campuses and local biking groups have shown interest in using Active Lions in their areas since its launch.
Aside from the app, the Facebook and Twitter pages are very interactive, providing opportunities for discussions on active travel, giveaways, and fun facts.
The app and initiative are supported by a grant provided by the Penn State Sustainability Institute. Instructions on how to download the Active Lions app, which is free to download and use, can be found here.