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Adapting Non-Traditional Technology for Bicycle and Pedestrian Uses

Date:
September 17, 2020
Topics:
ITS, Resources

Intelligent thinking can lead to the creative application of non-transportation technology in a transportation environment. In the case of Allentown, Pennsylvania, an existing construction industry technology was exactly what the city needed for a new walking program. In 2016, the city decided to expand an existing senior walking program pilot to create a healthy walking initiative. The city’s Health Bureau is the recipient of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Million Hearts funding through the Pennsylvania Department of Health and administrator of the walking program called “Million Clicks for Million Hearts.” Million Clicks is free to all registrants. Upon registering, participants receive a key tab to click in at a time clock to mark that they’ve completed a certain number of walks on local paths. Time clocks are typically used by workers who need to punch in and out of a job site, but in this case, Million Clicks registrants are punching in to record their walking patterns. By doing so, they become eligible for prizes such as gift cards.[i] In addition to the federal funding, Allentown’s program is supported by private partners and national associations including the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association, and the National Association of City and County Health Officials.

Project Purposes

The CDC Million Hearts program is a national health initiative to prevent heart attacks and strokes. According to federal statistics, one in three deaths in the United States is due to cardiovascular disease.[ii] Million Hearts funding recipients across the U.S. have designed local programs to encourage healthy living and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The City of Allentown looked for a creative way to promote physical activity to reduce heart disease. Time clocks and tracking software document the walks people are taking. The weather-resistant time clocks are positioned on wooden posts along with a sign indicating that walkers can “Click, Walk & Win!” Walkers register with the City of Allentown Health Bureau, which assigns them a key tab and participant number. Participants also receive a Million Clicks newsletter, and they become eligible for monthly drawings. 

Million Clocks Million Hearts signpost on Lehigh Parkway walking path n Allentown, PA. Image courtesy City of Allentown/Alexandra Kleintop

Million Clicks for Million Hearts is promoted by the Allentown Health Bureau and Parks and Recreation Department as well as community partners such as local hospitals, businesses and schools.

Outcomes

Allentown’s walking program had 3,400 participants as of December 2019. The city averages approximately 500 new registrants per year. Participants can easily go to a City webpage to register. When asked if key tabs are ever reassigned due to relocation or other life events, Allentown Health Bureau staff said that some key tabs have been turned back in, and the city has been accommodating about replacing lost key tabs although there is a limit on replacements because of the costs.[iii]

Because Million Clicks is state grant funded, the city reports number of participants, number of clicks, email newsletter recipients, and social media interaction on a quarterly basis. 

Finally, when asked if trail development and pedestrian improvements have increased due to the Million Clicks program, city staff acknowledged that trail development is happening through transportation and recreation funding, and the increased interest in walking options was happening even without the Million Hearts funding; however, the initiatives intersect and complement each other.[iv]

Resources

The City of Allentown has received an extension to its state funding to continue its Million Clicks walking program through 2023. The Million Clicks for Million Hearts program has been so successful in Allentown that even if state funding is not continued beyond that point, the city would consider securing funding through a private funder or foundation to continue the program.[v]

Using key tabs to click in at a Million Clicks Million Hearts time clock in Allentown, PA. Image courtesy of Allentown/Alexandra Kleintop

The costs of implementing the time clock and key tab technology includes registration system software start-up at $1,000 per year for one computer license and the cost of key tabs, which are normally $10 each, but bulk purchasing provides discounts. Each time clock costs approximately $500. The City of Allentown supports sign and post maintenance through its Public Works and Parks and Recreation offices. Allentown Health Bureau staff noted that the company that provides the city’s Million Clicks time clocks is moving to a cloud-based software and that may alter pricing in the future. A training session was provided by the time clock supplier, and the supplier provides software and equipment technical support. Clocks have been sturdy and have worked well. Batteries are replaced by city employees on a regular schedule. Learn more about Allentown’s Million Clicks for Million Hearts and the time clock system at  https://www.allentownpa.gov/Health-Bureau/Million-Clicks-for-Million-Hearts and http://walkingsummit.org/click-to-walk-in-allentown-pennsylvania.


[i] Personal communication with Alexandra Kleintop and Tina Amato, February 2020

[ii] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2019). Million Hearts Costs and Consequences, https://millionhearts.hhs.gov/learn-prevent/cost-consequences.html

[iii] Personal communication with Alexandra Kleintop and Tina Amato, February 2020

[iv] Personal communication with Alexandra Kleintop and Tina Amato, February 2020

[v] Personal communication with Alexandra Kleintop and Tina Amato, February 2020

This report was delivered to the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2020. It was primarily authored by NADO Program Manager Rachel Beyerle and NADO Associate Director Carrie Kissel. Many transportation agency staff and others assisted with this project in a variety of ways. We offer deep and heartfelt thanks to all the individuals who have provided information and images, consented to be interviewed, and offered editorial guidance in support of this research. This work is supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation under requisition number HOIT190194PR. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. DOT or the NADO Research Foundation.