Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Freiker in Los Altos, California

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).


m e l i g r o s a said...

that's awesome! go kids go

spingineer said...

They should do the same thing at work ... way to go!

steph said...

I think the concept is great but there should be a lo-tech counter option. Maybe a volunteer (student council?) can count the # of bikers each morning to come lock up? This Freiker thing costs $4k which, in wealthy los altos, isn't a drop in the bucket; the rest of california's schools are struggling, however, just to pay for literacy. any other ideas?

Russ said...

Yes!!! Very cool program. I agree with spingineer, a large company could impliment the same program. $4000 grand for a set up is a lot, but considering some school cut P.E. maybe that is their trade off. Maybe the gasoline they don't use on the buses could offset the cost.

Yokota Fritz said...

The "Freiker" program started out low tech with a punch card in 2004. They tested a bar code too (bar codes pasted to bike helmets were scanned). The RFID ride by with the immediate audio feedback made this program truly successful, though -- they went from a handful of kids riding their bikes to school to a substantial majority riding in. It's expensive and gimmicky, but it's effective.

No school bus expense for California schools. In Colorado, the schools using Freiker all have had substantial reductions in the school drop off traffic jam.

TFC said...

Glad to hear about the tremendous reception of the Freikometer (FM) at Almond. Hi, I'm Tim Carlin the Exec. Dir. for Freiker. We are currently working with a number of companies to design a cost reduced version of the Freikometer to make it affordable for all communities. Given this is installed in Silicon Valley you might say the current version is a "proof of concept" prototype. Our goal is to encourage all kids, where appropriate, to use active transportation for commuting to school and other activities. We look forward to helping change the commuting habits of the next generation of kids and working with everyone interested in active transportation. Thanks for your support. (www.freiker.org)

Anonymous said...

Spooky stuff! Big brother is watching!
I've been riding my bike for over 20 years, but the frequency, when & where I go is nobody's business but my own.
Next thing we'll have toilets that analyze our crap so the government can tell us how to eat healthier.
Good technology, but bad application - I hope it goes nowhere (pun intended)

Yokota Fritz said...

@Anon 4:55 -- we're already there! See Bruce Schneier's pping Drug Use by Testing Sewer Water.