Case Study: Managing and Growing a Commuter Program

Many private and public employers, universities and colleges, and non-profit organizations are interested in promoting commuting by bike not only as an environmentally friendly mode of transportation but as a healthy alternative to driving. More and more, these organizations are looking for an effective way to track the amount of bike trips made by their employees and encourage even more biking. Dero ZAP, an automated RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) system with integrated hardware and software (optional solar powered), offers opportunities for managing and monitoring bike commuting and tying it with an organization's wellness program. With Dero ZAP, users only need to register once, have an RFID tag put on their bike, and bike past a reader and their commute is recorded (a.k.a. "zapped"). On the admin side, it's easy to report the number of times individuals bike commute, so incentives can be awarded.

The first Dero ZAP system was installed at the University of Minnesota in 2012. The University has approximately 65,000 individuals on campus; 9,000 of those are cyclists. Currently, around 4,500 participating cyclists make their way to campus every. They have installed over 20 Dero ZAP readers at the Minneapolis/St. Paul campus. The technology has encouraged people to leave their cars parked and commute by bike instead. The system is easy to use and the university has created a program around it. Faculty and staff, as well as students, participate in seasonal challenges and can earn rewards by biking at least 8 times per month. Each day that staff and faculty are "zapped" goes towards the university's wellness points program, so successful participants receive an annual health  insurance discount on their premiums. 

More recently, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) implemented the system on their campus in 2017. The university is utilizing the Dero ZAP program to move away from their self-reporting bike initiative. The online dashboard allows both participants and program managers access to the information at any time. The program encourages participants to ride their bikes for a prize at the end of the month. Program administrators can set up a specific goal for the month, and the online dashboard provides the ability to sort, draw a winner, and automatically notify them by email that they have been selected. The system also allows a more accurate inventory of prizes to be given away each month.


According to Kimberlu Reeves, the Sustainability Program Manager at UCCS, the program has been extremely successful. She stated, "Out front runner is a facilities staff person, he'll be the first to tell you how far ahead of the second-place rider he is. There's also a chemistry professor who can't get enough of the 'chirp' every time he gets to campus. He says  it's like a little cheer that he biked another day; he rides for the health benefits." At their Bike Jam/Bike to Campus Day event, the University's Facilities Services staff successfully signed-up 60 participants to the Dero ZAP program. Since then, other events have taken place where more individuals have joined for a total of 85 participants. By 2017, all five readers have been already installed. The University is hopeful that more participants will register moving forward.

The University has realized that the data collected with this system could potentially help advocate for more bike infrastructure in areas of high traffic. The first reader installed is by far the most frequented one but program managers have realized that other locations where readers are placed are used as much as this one. The overall goal of UCCS is to promote wellness through implementing this program. The campus is located on a bluff and it is about 15-30 minutes from hiking trails. This makes it an ideal area to promote biking with the goal to increase wellness, active living, destress participants.

UCCS staff have expressed that Dero ZAP has been an exceptional forum for talking about why colleagues bike to campus. These conversations have led to other topics such as how biking involves saving money on parking and even how biking has an impact in reducing the use of single-occupancy vehicles. However, no matter the reason, health is ultimately the main factor.


"Dero ZAP was the only all-in-one program we could find. Their RFID tags allowed for easy participation that helped move our bike incentive program away from self-reporting. And the online dashboard provides easy access to information for both participants and program managers."

-Kimberly Reeve, Sustainability Program Manager at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

This case study and other bike-related case studies can be found in our Shift Into Gear® guidebook.

This article was written by Bri Whitcraft, Shift Into Gear: A Bicycling Advocacy Resource.

Photo Credits: Dero

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