Thursday, April 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Bike to school, then log in; scanners help families save a gallon

Jim Watson scans the rubber bracelets worn by Birch Lane Elementary School students who ride their bikes to school. Lining up are Zoë Senter, Carina Fettinger and Kelsey Calhoun. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

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March 21, 2011 | Leave Comment

Remember the first time your child headed off to school without you? Wouldn’t it have been nice to receive instant confirmation of his or her safe arrival?

Well, Birch Lane Elementary School parents need imagine no more. Beginning this week, students there are literally being scanned in at the bike racks, with parents receiving an instant email, text message or phone call that their children have arrived on campus safely.

It’s all thanks to a pilot project brought to the school by the informal partnership of cycling enthusiasts, bike clubs and parents here in Davis.

“It’s an amazing combination of people,” said Davis Bicycles! member Tim Starback, who, along with Phil Cox, created the scanning system.

Starback and Cox are the gurus behind the Saveagallon program, which rewards Davis students for choosing alternative forms of transportation. Students and their families track how often — and how far — they travel by foot, bike, car pool, public transportation or any other non-gas-guzzling method, and log their miles on the Saveagallon website. Participating students are then eligible for prizes every month.

All told, 436 Davis children participated in the program last year, saving 1,710 gallons of gas.

As successful as the program was, Starback and Cox were hearing that students and their parents were often forgetting to log their miles. So to make that easier, as well as to ease parents’ concerns about their children biking or walking to school, they came up with what they hope will be the solution.

Children at Birch Lane were given rubber bracelets this week with barcode tags attached. Volunteers will be at the school every morning to scan the barcodes and the information will be recorded in a laptop computer, which will then send a text, phone or email alert to the student’s parents that the child arrived.

“I wish I had something like this when my son was in elementary school,” Starback noted. “I remember being so nervous when he first started going by himself and if I would have had a little bit of reassurance that he got there … that would have been great.”

Meanwhile, once scanned, each child’s miles will be logged automatically in the Saveagallon system.

“It’s just like a supermarket scanner,” said Birch Lane parent and bike coordinator Sanne Fettinger.

Fettinger and other volunteers will be at the Birch Lane bike racks every morning for the next four weeks “and then we’ll look at the feedback we get,” Starback said.

Given that it’s a completely new system, he expects glitches to crop up along the way.

“It’s just like any other new site,” he noted. “That’s why we’re rolling it out one school at a time.”

The scanners are being used at Miller Creek Middle School in Marin County, but only to log student miles, not to notify parents, Starback said.

“They wanted that too, but I wanted to be on site for that, so Birch Lane is the first pilot to use the notifying,” he said.

Fettinger and Starback stress that this is not a school or school district program and the barcode scan will not communicate with the school in any way, nor provide evidence of attendance. Birch Lane itself will not keep track of who scans in and who doesn’t.

Rather, the program is a product of Saveagallon; Davis Bicycles!, which paid for the scanner; and the Davis Bike Club, which provided the bracelets and barcode tags — 500 in all. Starback and Cox are covering the cost of texting and phone call notifications — which cost two cents apiece — and Fettinger and other parent volunteers will provide the labor involved.

For more information about Saveagallon, visit http://www.saveagallon.org.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at aternus@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8051.

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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