Drag Racing: Experiments in Prospect Park

Field Experiment: Can we persuade people to move more, and in a different way, as they are walking down the street?

Test #1: Create a simple race track on the sidewalk with tape, chalk, a flag to swing and ribbons to hand out to the winners.

Goals: To get people’s attention and create a more active environment. To observe how responsive people are to the game we created- are they amused? will the competitive nature of a race get people to run, and play, when they weren’t planning to?

Observations: Only one adult wanted to race. Children were very excited about the opportunity to race each other. It was very effective at persuading children to run. One parent asked me how much we were charging, and was surprised that we had set this up as a free activity.

Revisions for next time: We think that making the track longer would make the race more fun for adults, so we will try that, and also try wide sidewalk areas outside of the park. Taking the game outside of the park context might get more people’s attention.

Test #2: To intervene on the jogging track in the park with a “finish line” flag and blue ribbons. This was a spontaneous test that we came up with on site without planning.

Goals: To see if we can make the jogging experience more fun by creating a racing game. Will they run faster? Will they be annoyed by the intervention or amused?

Observations: Half of the people we tried to give ribbons to wouldn’t take them, but the half that did take them smiled and were amused.

Revisions for next time: People weren’t running faster because we didn’t have anything marking the “start line”. Next time we will try that, to encourage the runners to try racing the others around them.

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