Almond Elementary School in Los Altos, California became the first school in California using the innovative and successful Freiker “Frequent Biker” program that uses incentives and electronic tracking to encourage school children to ride their bikes.
The program began with a parade Tuesday afternoon in which children were outfitted with the Freiker tags, which are detected by the “Freikometer.” When the children ride their bikes under the Freikometer, it beeps at them while tallying their bike trip to school. The Freikometer is a solar-powered computer that reads an RFID tag taped to riders’ helmets. Each day, a Freiker rides past the Freikometer, and a buzzer sounds to indicate the ride has been logged. The Freikometer wirelessly uploads the rider data to the Freiker website daily, and the child or parent can log on to the website to see the number of rides accumulated. The Freikometer does the counting, and the prizes provide the motivation.
Los Altos parent Jon Simms learned of the Freiker program from co-workers at Sun Microsystem’s Broomfield campus in Colorado. He generated excitement with the school PTA and presented the idea with the PTA to Almond Elementary’s principal. After Simms met with Freiker chairperson Tricia Grafelman, Simms got cash and prize donations from Bicycle Outfitters, Palo Alto Bicycles, Monte Vista Velo, Jelly Belly, and several individuals to get the Freiker program up and running this spring. “In spite of the weak economy several people have really stepped up to give to this program,” says Simms.
Simms wants to show his community “the real potential of cycling” through the use of the Freiker program.
Freiker began at Crestview Elementary School in Boulder, Colorado in 2004. When the RFID “Freikometer” was introduced in 2006, participation skyrocketed, with 54,000 rides logged at Crestview fof the 2007-2008 school year. When a Freikometer was installed at Burlington Elementary School in Longmont, CO last year, students logged 1,000 trips on foot or bike in a single month. The Safe Routes Coordinator in Longmont, Buzz Feldman, tells me he’s seen children pushing their bikes through the snow so they can get credit for taking their bikes to school even in inclement weather.
Ten schools in four states are currently running the program, and the 100,000 trips made by the children at those schools have covered more than 150,000 miles (which is six times around the world).