After a couple of weeks of beta testing, this Thursday, the
ZAP Twin Cities
program will be up and running in downtown Minneapolis.
ZAP workers will be on hand at the Nicollet Mall farmers market to share information about the high-tech program, which rewards people for riding their bikes to work or school.
The program, which began operating at the University of Minnesota's
Twin Cities campus in January, will expand into downtown St. Paul in the coming weeks as well.
Its objective is to “change how people in the Twin Cities choose to get around, helping reduce congestion and improve air quality in the region," a prepared statement about the program reads.
To take part, people get a ZAP tag, which gets fixed on a bicycle. “Bicycle trips are automatically logged when a cyclist rides past one of several ZAP readers,” the statement says.
The readers, which are solar-powered, beep when a tagged bicyclist passes by, transmitting the data wirelessly to the website.
Steve Sanders, alternative transportation manager at the university, says it has many advantages over self-reporting bicycle trips. Besides eliminating any extra steps, it makes the trips verifiable. “Once you put the tag on [and register it online], you don’t have to do anything” except ride past the sensors, he says.
Along the way, bike commuters pick up various rewards, such as bike accessories, gift cards, and more.
As an added perk, the university offers health benefits for program participation. For example, “If you ride 40 times a year, you can earn points that create a discount for health insurance,” Sanders says.
On the ZAP website, participants can check out their trip data, which includes figures such as calories burned and gallons of gas saved.
Since the program started at the university, over 1,200 people have signed up, a figure which is already well over the program's goal of 500 people in the first year.
“It’s been very gratifying,” he says. “People were hungry for a way to have their bike commuting count. Tying it to health has also been important.”
ZAP is a collaboration of the Commuter Connection
in downtown Minneapolis, St. Paul Smart Trips
, the university, and Dero Bike Rack Company.
Source: Steve Sanders
Writer: Anna Pratt