An increasing number of European cities have decided to introduce free public transport for their citizens, assuming that minimizing the use of cars is a healthy habit. And indeed, it is, both for the passengers who take more walks and for the city itself, which transforms from a drive-thru into an authentic, usable public space. Still, many cities feel that free fares would be too much of a blow to their budgets and stick to the old ways.
The Romanian city of Cluj-Napoca is on the latter side of this politics, but boy, have they introduced a peculiar currency to pay for their bus fares! Squatting. Yup, you read it right: squats, as in the exercise where you bend your knees from standing positions as low as you can and then stand up again. If you do it twenty times – you get a free bus ride.
20 squats per ride
How do they check if someone has completed their squats? Well, that’s where a smart city device comes in. It’s a kiosk equipped with a camera that watches you as you take on the challenge, which means doing 20 squats in under two minutes. One such booth in Cluj-Napoca is located on Memorandumului Street next to an actual bus stop, so you break some sweat, get your ticket, and immediately hop on a bus. Alternatively, you may save your ticket for later, as it is valid across the entire transportation network.
Sadly, this is not an all-year-round policy. The project was introduced in 2020 as a part of European Sports Week, and squatting-for-tickets were available from August until October, between 5 am and 11 pm. The current project, running for the third year in a row, launched in August 2022 and ends in October 2022.
You may say that a single-travel bus ticket in exchange for 20 squats is not that much of a benefit. In Cluj-Napoca, such a ticket may be worth RON lei 2.5 Romanian Leu (which is approximately EUR 0.5). But just think of all the health benefits, which, after all, are the reasons behind the challenge. Who knows, maybe you’ll get into doing squats (good for strength and building lower body muscles) and continue after the tickets go back to their regular price.
There is only one visible flaw to this Cluj-Napoca initiative. As Romania is not a Slavic country, this humble journalist writing about the European Sports Week is forced to refrain from the pun of squatting Slavs. Apart from that, way to go, Cluj-Napoca!