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Phone tracking tech to reward walking, biking

Commuters wait at a bus stop in central London, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010. Millions of Londoners struggled to get to work by road, rail, boat and bicycle Tuesday as a strike by London Underground workers shut down much of the city's subway system. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)Lefteris Pitarakis / AP

Londoners who walk or bike around town with a smartphone that records their whereabouts will soon earn points redeemable at shops and restaurants.

The program aims to harness ubiquitous phone tracking technology to ease congestion and pollution as well as boost physical fitness by appealing to the human desire to get stuff at a discount.

The concept was announced Monday by Recyclebank, a group that promotes green actions with rewards, and Transport for London, the organization that operates London's transport system including the Underground.

The smartphone app will log the distance members travel and reward them accordingly. At the end of each journey, Recyclebank will reveal the number of points earned, as well as the benefits of the journey such as the number of trees saved and carbon emissions prevented.

The app will also show users nearby locations where they can redeem their points, notes Fast Company

Rewards currently available range from discounts at McDonald's, where you can replenish those calories you burned walking around town, to Macy's, where you can buy a new outfit to looking smashing in the bike saddle. 

A panel of recruited users will test the application later this year. The program is scheduled for launch in spring 2012. It will be free to join.

"Our hope is that this program becomes something that other cities can emulate to reduce their environmental footprint, realizing the collective impact of individual green actions," Recyclebank CEO Jonathan Hsu, said in a statement.

If so, we can all look forward to a day when our streets are less crowded by smog-belching vehicles, we're all a bit trimmer from all the walking and biking, and our appetite for the latest deals — even at the cost of a little privacy — is more gargantuan than ever.

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John Roach is a contributing writer for