Is Fitbit a tool for greener transportation and better cities?

FitBit screen shot image
Screen capture Sami Grover

I grew up walking to school. I love walking. And my love of getting about by foot is one of the primary reasons why I abandoned a car-dependent rural idyll in favor of downtown living. So, I've always been a bit suspicious of Fitbit and the slew of other activity monitors designed to encourage a more active lifestyle.

Why should we need a little electronic widget to encourage us to walk more?

Surely a small fridge, an attractive community, and maybe strict enforcement of drunk driving laws are all we need to promote a culture of walking, biking and human powered transportation?

Then my wife bought me a Fitbit. And I have to say, while I was already walking regularly on local errands, my first week of tracking my steps has seen a significant increase in how often and how far I walk. Crucially, it has also encouraged me to incorporate much more of that walking into my daily routines—popping to the grocery store etc–simply because it's really hard to find time to accumulate 10,000 steps if you are sitting at your desk all day and then driving to where you need to go.

True, I still find myself a little sad that it's a little electronic nag that's encouraging me to do this. And I am trying hard to resist the temptation to check my steps every couple of blocks. But I have to say that providing a daily feedback loop on how active my lifestyle is has, so far at least, lead me to shift to a more active (and sustainable) lifestyle.

When Lloyd trashed smart thermostats in favor of the dumb home I disagreed with him. True, weatherizing your home is infinitely more important than fiddling with your thermostat every time you go out (by foot!) to the store, but by engaging people with regular, accessible feedback on their energy use, smart thermostats can be a gateway drug for conservation. Similarly, simply providing visual feedback to drivers on their real-time fuel usage can create significant changes in driving style.

Maybe Fitbit can do the same for walking. Hey, I walked to get donuts yesterday. (I do not intend to track my calorie intake any time soon...)

Tags: Cities | Walking


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