Biking To A Healthier MIT: Impact

By Eric Lau, Iris Fung, Judy Chang, and Julia Appel

MIT puts student health and wellness at the forefront of much of its community programming. Community Wellness Classes range in topic from exercise and fitness, healthy eating, smoking cessation, stress management, and sexual health; the getfit@mit program encourages exercise via a 12-week team-based exercise challenge. Further, MIT offers a subsidy on Hubway membership for students to the tune of 70% of the total cost. We wanted to think of a way for MIT to publicize both their Hubway subsidy program and the benefits of using Hubway to increase physical activity and save time commuting around the area.  

Our goal with this project is to inform MIT students who are non-bikers and/or non-Hubway members about the benefits of the Hubway bike share program and biking as a form of physical activity, raise awareness about the MIT Hubway subsidy program, and encourage those in the MIT community to join for use as an alternative form of transportation to the T. Using a Hubway bike instead of the T will save the students time commuting, increase physical activity, and promote exercise, health, and wellness. As such, our intended audience is MIT students, or others in the MIT community, and our call to action is for currently unengaged students to join the Hubway bike share program.

Our hope was to evaluate impact of the game by tracking how many students actually used the coupon for a free Hubway (that would be easiest enough to track with access to Hubway data on single day passes). However, due to time constraints we were not able to connect with people who work at Hubway, and so decided to rely on a pre/post survey that we disseminated using Google sheets that asks indicator questions to represent the major goals of our piece. We asked game participants to take a survey before playing the game, and then again after the game happened on the following topics:

  1. General level of physical activity/enjoyment of physical activity
  2. Self-efficacy related to biking, and bike-commuting
  3. Awareness of Hubway bike share program/MIT subsidy program
  4. Likelihood of joining the program within a 10-day period.  

We asked audience members to take a survey before and after watching the video, to gauge the effectiveness of the video in increasing audience knowledge of and excitement for using Hubway in the future.


We received lots of positive and valuable feedback on our project from members of the MIT community who we recruited to game. (See more in our slideshow!) From key informant interviews with those who played the game and watched it being played, we found out that people really enjoyed the physical activity component of the game, learning about the MIT Hubway subsidy program, and some of the public health facts. They also enjoyed cheering for the biker, seeing the biker get the power up boost, and watching the biker complete the race. 80% of people who took the post-game survey said that they would probably take a free Hubway ride if they were given a coupon for one. 60% of players were thinking about or considering joining Hubway, and one rider changed her pre and post survey response, from “I might consider joining Hubway in the next 10 days” to “I will probably join Hubway in the next 10 days”. Some audience members were more interested in the MIT subsidized Hubway membership, which they said they learned about via the facts that pop up on the video.

We also received some unanticipated feedback on the game. First, many players and audience members were actually turned off by the GoPro footage: it was a bit too “real”, as it depicted biking up Mass Ave at rush hour, in the rain. (There were too many near brushes with cars, other cyclists, etc.) One game player said  that the “biking was fun but the traffic is terrifying, which is the main reason I don’t bike now.” To our dismay, biking self-efficacy did not increase as we’d expected, but rather decreased! The second piece of valuable feedback we received was to edit out those parts of the video where the person was stopped at a light, so the bike motion was continuous the entire time. We also received feedback on the physical bike stand setup: namely, that it incorporate some form of resistance in pedaling, so that the simulation is a bit more “real life.” Finally, we were told that having a leader board might encourage even more friendly competition among players.

With more time and resources, we would love to refilm the GoPro video, build a more realistic bike stand that incorporates resistance, and also build in the leaderboard component. Overall, though the audience and game players seemed to enjoy the game very much, especially the audience interaction and support pieces. They also took away valuable information about the MIT Hubway subsidy program, and the health benefits of biking, which were two of our main objectives with this piece. We are confident that, with a few tweaks and possibly a Hubway partnership, our game would be a big success.

Will you join us in biking to a healthier MIT?