The Wednesday Challenge, a major new community initiative, is set to launch in Tauranga early March and will be challenging people to change the way they travel every Wednesday across the year.
Project Director, Heidi Hughes, says the challenge is very simple. “We’re asking people to consider different modes of travel on a Wednesday. Instead of jumping in the car by themselves, if they opt to for a different mode like biking, taking the bus, running, walking, skateboarding, scootering or carpooling they’ll be able to earn points and be in to win rewards and prizes.”
Alongside the fun aspects of the challenge there’s some impressive potential benefits. “If we can inspire lots of people across Tauranga to take up the challenge then we will demonstrate the positive effects of people power. We could reduce congestion on the roads, increase car park availability, increase health and mental wellbeing, reduce stress and increase productivity, improve community connections and help the environment. It’s a win-win for all.”
The Wednesday Challenge aims to reduce car dependency in Tauranga over the year with a target of 20% of regular drivers participating in the challenge. “Wherever you are going on a Wednesday; whether you’re commuting to work, doing the school drop off and pick up, heading to the shops, running errands, going to sports practices or visiting friends, by simply choosing a better mode of travel you will be making a difference. We currently sit at around 5%, so if we all choose to make a difference just one day a week, we would see tangible change to how our streets feel -Think winding the clock back 10 years on Tauranga Traffic!”
A smart website app will allow people to log their journeys on a Wednesday, earn points, access rewards and be in to win prizes. “We know incentives work and we appreciate we are asking people to change their behaviours. So, we’re rewarding them. There’s also the opportunity for people to set up teams so businesses, neighbourhoods and schools can challenge each other.
With weekly and monthly leader boards participants will be able to track how they are doing individually and across the different sectors of business, schools and neighbourhoods. “It’s a competitive challenge because we know that if we can encourage people to challenge others the rewards will be greater. We have school, business and neighbourhood teams working with each sector to drive participation and momentum and get results.”
With congestion on Tauranga roads getting worse, the Wednesday Challenge is aiming to positively impact how our streets look and feel. “We’re not anti-cars, we’re just very aware that Tauranga is probably New Zealand’s most car dependent city. So, through the Wednesday Challenge we are trying to inspire change, by the people. We’re not waiting for the powers that be to change the roads, we’re saying, what if we, as individuals, could work together collaboratively and demonstrate change. That’s a powerful thing.”
The Wednesday Challenge has a strong social conscience too. “Through COVID we have seen even more isolation in our community. We are encouraging people to consider their own neighbourhoods. Maybe there’s an elderly neighbour who you could invite to car share with you to run errands. Maybe there’s work mates you could car share with and get to know each other better or maybe you can carpool for the school run or, better yet get your kids to cycle, scooter, walk or run with their friends. It could have a profound impact on the chaos at the school gates.”
Fancy catching a ferry too?
A six-week ferry trial will also launch as part of the initiative on February 16th inviting people to catch a ferry to and from Omokoroa or between Salisbury Wharf the Mount and the Downtown Tauranga waterfront. “The cool thing about this initiative is that it’s catalysing some amazing collaborations” explains Heidi. We’re partnering with Tourism Bay of Plenty and Tauranga Water Transport for the ferry service trial. Imagine commuting in from Omokoroa by ferry instead of sitting in traffic. Or maybe you have a meeting at the Mount…jump on the ferry instead of sitting on Hewletts Road.”
What about carpooling?
Another exciting collaboration that’s launching alongside and in partnership with the Wednesday Challenge is the Liftango carpool app. “We’re integrating their world-class carpooling app into our platform. It’ll make it super easy to find a ride or share your car. Obviously, we will be adhering to and promoting COVID appropriate health and safety measures with this and all travel options to ensure we encourage safe travel” says Heidi.
The Wednesday Challenge launches March 2nd in Tauranga and is being led by Envirohub Bay of Plenty with funding from Waka Kotahi, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Tauranga City Council.
Keen to find out more? Go to www.wednesdaychallenge.co.nz