Get Tagged, Get Zapped, Get Rewarded with ZAP Twin Cities

ZAP Twin CitiesLast week I had an opportunity to meet with Steve Sanders, Alternative Transportation Manager at the University of Minnesota Parking and Transportation Services about the implementation of a new bike commuter program in Minneapolis and St. Paul, ZAP Twin Cities. It’s based on the very successful University of Minnesota ZAP Bike Commuting Program, but, many Minneapolis/St. Paul residents probably aren’t familiar with the University’s commuter program because Gopher ZAP is available exclusively for U of M students, faculty, and staff. But now, in partnership with Commuter Connection and St. Paul Smart Trips, the University of Minnesota is helping to make possible a commuter-based rewards program for all Twin Cities metro area residents who already commute, or, for residents who are looking for just a little more incentive to start making daily commutes via bicycle.

The Gopher ZAP program uses software and hardware developed by Dero ZAP. If they sound familiar to you, it’s probably because they are the Minneapolis-based Dero Bike Rack Company that started making commercial bike racks, back in 1995. The Dero ZAP tag is installed in your spokes, and the ZAP station records your commute when you pass by.

“It’s all automated. The user doesn’t have to do anything special, other than have the tag installed on their bike when they register, and ride past the readers located throughout the U of M campus, and soon, in both downtown areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul,” explained Steve Sanders. I asked him if there was a registration fee or if ZAP was subscription-based. Sanders replied that Gopher ZAP and ZAP Twin Cities is completely free to users. “Using Dero’s ZAP technology, the program promotes, encourages and rewards bike commuting to change how people in the Twin Cities choose to get around.”

Sanders

Steve Sanders shows how Gopher ZAP commuters can track their account.

I asked Steve about the popularity of the Gopher ZAP program, and he told me that the ZAP technology was tested for about a year prior to the January, 2012 launch of the commuter rewards program on campus. “In just under six months we already have nearly 800 users signed up,” Sanders reported. “We are always obtaining new incentives and rewards for Gopher ZAP users, but the more popular ones remain health insurance premium discounts from U Wellness programs for points credited by using the bike commuter program, and other U Wellness incentives. Students are also rewarded with many bike accessories, like lights and fenders.” Sanders mentioned that they are working hard to have a similar health-based program rewards system available for the newly expanded ZAP Twin Cities, but that it will take more time, since they are developing new relationships with other health-care organizations outside of the University. Currently, they have negotiated rewards for discounts at local merchants and restaurants, but more information will be available soon.

There are presently 18 ZAP reader stations on the U of M campus. There will be approximately 10 ZAP readers strategically placed, in each downtown St. Paul, and downtown Minneapolis. Once the new reader stations are in place, their locations will be made available so bike commuters can plan their routes to record their commute, using any of the combined 38 reader stations, including those already in place on the University campus. The two downtown’s reader stations, linked by the present Gopher ZAP stations, will create an expansive network that many cyclists can use very easily.

ZAP station

ZAP station reader on University of MN campus

Sanders added, “The rapid growth and popularity of Gopher ZAP has Commuter Connection, St. Paul Smart Trips, and University of Minnesota Parking and Transportation Services wheeling to get ZAP Twin Cities set up. It is very exciting, but also challenging, since we are actually developing all this from the ground up, without help of any other similar infrastructure to serve as a guide, other than what we have already accomplished here at the U. We are not aware of any other commuter bicycle rewards program, in any community, using this technology, at this level.  So, there are obviously going to be hurdles and speed-bumps when working with the city, utilities, and other agencies, to get the job done right, for success and continued growth. But, based on the successful development of Gopher ZAP and the awesome cycling community growing up around the Twin Cities, we are all very optimistic and feel fortunate to be working on such a unique and important endeavor.”

Sanders informed me during our interview that Commuter Connection had just received a $10,000 grant from Bikes Belong. “The interest and cooperation from cycling advocate agencies has been tremendous. The financial backing and other assistance granted to help develop and put the ZAP programs in place has been instrumental.”

The ZAP Twin Cities bicycle commuter rewards program is slated to launch in mid-to-late June, pending permits, location selection, and other criteria still in the development process. BikeMinneapolis will follow the progress and updates with more info when it’s available.

You can also follow ZAP Twin Cities on Twitter and Facebook.

MN 2020 Video Production Specialist Tom Niemisto produced a short film, back in March, about the Gopher ZAP bike commute program that you can see here.

 

Two Stops for Bike Advocacy

Thursday night I made a couple stops at two organizational meetings. It was finally time for BikeMinneapolis to get busy!

Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition – Franklin Ave Bike Lanes

First up, I stopped in to visit with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition and volunteers who got together and organize their efforts to advocate for the implementation of bike lanes on Franklin Ave, from Hennepin Ave to Minnehaha Ave. A couple of the volunteers arrived after biking on Franklin Ave and were more than convinced that improvements needed to be made. The goal is to talk with bicyclists who use Franklin Ave and to have them sign a petition, supporting bike lanes on Franklin Ave. The MBC volunteers will be reaching out to local residents, as well as neighborhood and business associations to get their backing, also.

According to a recent study, there are more than 500 bicycles per day riding along Franklin Ave. It is a main corridor between Uptown and the U of M. There are also 8 Nice Ride stations located within a block of Franklin Ave.

If you were unable to attend the meeting, you can still get involved. You can email franklin@mplsbike.org for details on how you can help by talking with cyclists and residents, and gathering petition signatures. There will also be an online petition form that you may sign. This link is forthcoming, but will be provided also by inquiring via email.

Lastly, Transit for Livable Communities will be hosting a meeting at 7:30pm Monday, May 7 at Philips Community Center (2323 11th Avenue S.) to discuss future bike and pedestrian improvements on Franklin Avenue. Please come share your ideas and show your support to make Franklin Avenue more bike-friendly.

Midtown Greenway Coalition – Crime Prevention Task Force

After visiting with the MBC Crew, I rode over to the Midtown Greenway offices to sit in on the Crime Prevention Task Force being formed by the Midtown Greenway Coalition. In attendance were Midtown Greenway board members, volunteers, and two representatives from the 3rd and 5th Precincts of the Minneapolis Police.

Susan gave an informative report on Trail Watch, the Midtown Greenway’s own safety patrol, which is staffed by volunteers. Trail Watch riders make nightly rides watching for and reporting suspicious/criminal activity to 911, assist cyclists with break-downs and flats, and help to educate riders. They have even supplied lights to riders without lights. Find out more and learn how to volunteer for Trail Watch. Volunteers are eligible for discounts at Midtown Freewheel Bike!

The 3rd and 5th Precincts representatives from the MPD then made available to the Board and volunteers some crime-report data they had assembled from the last 3-5 months which illustrated just how safe the Midtown Greenway actually is, especially compared to other crime reports from street level. Even though this was good news, the Board was clear in stating it’s platform of crime prevention and improved safety measures for the Greenway. The steady growth in heavy trail usage has dictated that improvements and new measures need to be discussed and implemented to ensure continued safe use of the Greenway.

It was decided that Susan would implement a campaign to sign-up more Trail Watch Volunteers. Gabriel will collect data of lighting conditions throughout the Greenway and report back next month to determine what improvements could be addressed in terms of better lighting. It was agreed upon that any needs for new and improved signage, cameras, and the question of using private security patrols would be discussed at the next scheduled Crime Prevention Task Force meeting on Monday, June 11, 2012 at 6pm.

Summary

It was a fun and productive night, and it was great getting to know some of the passionate cyclists we have working in our community for bicycle advocacy. The next time you are riding down Franklin Ave or the Midtown Greenway, please remember that there are many hard working people giving time and resources to make cycling even better in the Twin Cities. Please consider getting involved. It’s easy to become a member or volunteer… Almost as easy as riding a bike!

A More Bike Friendly Franklin Ave?

The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition recently posted on their blog their desire to gain support from the community to help make Franklin Ave between Hennepin Ave and Minnehaha Ave more bike friendly and safe for bicyclists. There is currently about 500 commuters per day using Franklin to commute by bike, despite the fact that this roadway lacks any bike lanes or amenities that we are accustomed to seeing popping up all over the Twin Cities.

You can see the full article here, where you can find more info on how to get involved and help spread awareness in the neighborhoods along Franklin Ave.

The MBC will host an informational session on Thursday, May 3rd at The Nicollet to register and inform volunteers how to educate and increase awareness among cyclists and the community.

Transit for Livable Communities and Bike Walk Twin Cities is hosting a meeting on Monday, May 7, 7:30pm, at Philips Community Center (2323 11th Avenue S.) to discuss future bike and pedestrian improvements on Franklin Avenue.

You can find these meeting dates, and others, along with events, rides, and other bike-alicious stuff on the BikeMinneapolis Calendar.

Nominations Open for Alliance 2012 Advocacy Awards

Washington, DC – November 3, 2011 – The Alliance for Biking & Walking has opened the public nomination period for its 2012 Advocacy Awards. Now in its fourth year, the Alliance’s Advocacy Awards recognize excellence in bicycle and pedestrian advocacy.

Award categories include:
Advocate of the Year
Advocacy Organization of the Year
Business Advocate of the Year
Winning Campaign of the Year
Susie Stephens Joyful Enthusiasm Award

Nominations will be accepted through December 18, 2011 on the Alliance website.


Anyone can make up to five nominations – one nomination per person, per award category. Nominations are not limited to Alliance members.

A selection committee composed of Alliance staff, board, and advocacy organization representatives will evaluate all nominees and the winners will be announced at a high-profile reception the first night of the 2012 National Bike Summit.

For more information and to nominate an individual, organization or business in your community visit: www.PeoplePoweredMovement.org/Awards