An app helps visitors rack up points to spend at dozens of local businesses.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated October 25, 2018
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Plenty of cities in the United States have launched bike-share programs or similar schemes to encourage people to use more environmentally- and traffic-friendly forms of transportation. Yes, sometimes these methods can be more convenient, but as far as pushing the environmentally-friendly side of things, the only real benefit is that you get the reward of feeling like a good person. Pfft, feeling good about yourself… Wouldn’t some sort of actual physical reward like beer or ice cream be much better?!

As silly as that idea may sound at first, the Italian city of Bologna actually decided the plan of incentivizing green transportation with goodies was so crazy it just might work. As BBC News reports, last year, urban planner Marco Amadori—with the support of local authorities and the EU—set up the Bella Mossa program, which is Italian for “Good Job!” People can download the BetterPoints app where they are able to log all their sustainable trips whether it’s on foot, a bike or public transport. These journeys are verified by the phone’s GPS, and then users are rewarded with virtual “points” that can be used at over 100 local businesses who have signed up for the program.

The program—which only runs for six months of the year—has been deemed a success, with about 2.2 million miles being logged last year and 10,000 people using the app this year. Still, Amadori told the BBC that the goal of the program isn’t just total miles, but also number of times used. “The system of point collection is based not on the distance you travel, but on the single trip, because it’s important that even for short trips of 1km you do it in a sustainable way,” he explained.

BBC World Hacks reporter Amelia Hemphill tried the app out in Bologna, and after just eight trips (plus a joining bonus), she walked away with a free gelato—though she says that other fun rewards include options like beer and movie tickets. But the app comes with its own built-in trick: “You can only log four journeys each day, so people have to keep using [the app} over time to win rewards,” she explained. So much for your plan to bike your way to a daily free beer!