Bike to School Month: Tracking Trips (without paper)

Track your Trips!Since Bryant began participating  in Bike to School Month in 2007, we found that one of the most cumbersome (and least fun) tasks during Bike to School Month was keeping track of the kids’ bike trips. Although Cascade has an electronic tracking system for middle and high school students, they still use paper forms to track trips for elementary schools.

The first couple of years we used Cascade’s Bike to School Calendar. This turned out to be more work than we thought necessary. Just to get the paper form out to the 500+ kids at Bryant entailed downloading the form, printing/copying one for each student and manually stuffing each form into the Weekly newsletter that went home to families. At the end of the month we did it all in reverse – collecting forms from teachers, tallying the results manually and sending them to Cascade.

Whew, that makes me tired just thinking about it.

With over 500 students at Bryant, we quickly realized we needed to come up with a paperless solution for keeping track of trips. The paper calendar = wasted paper and wasted time. Also, as a school community, Bryant, has a campaign to reduce the amount of paper generated and distributed to families and we wanted to comply.

We found a simple and straight forward solution: the form in Google Documents. Forms are easy to create and maintain and met our online tracking needs perfectly.

Once created, we published a link to the form on the Bryant Website and emailed it to parents with instructions for how to track trips. The data from the form is dumped into a spreadsheet that is easily exported to Excel (more on how to create and use the form later). 

Please note: If you decide to use online tracking, you might want to be aware that there are restrictions surrounding collecting data from children. We collect as little information as possible,  it’s collected from parents (not kids) as they are responsible for signing kids up for Bike to School Month and the data collected is for internal use only and is not published. We publish final numbers but do not publish personal information.

It’s All About the Stats

The online tracking form proved most useful for publishing weekly stats: thus motivating kids to ride to school and track their trips. You don’t get counted if you don’t enter your trips!

Momentum definitely builds during Bike to School Month. The number of riders and trips grows week to week. Over the years, we’ve found that a little friendly competition  goes a long way in motivating kids to ride bikes to school. The kids get competitive and want to complete trips to boost their class numbers. They tell their friends to do it to (and to track their trips!)

The first year we used online tracking, we competed with Laurelhurst and published the number of trips each school completed every week. While it motivated kids to complete more trips than a rival school did, we realized kids were more motivated to compete within the school. So the second year, we changed the competition to the most trips by class.

Weekly not Monthly

The online form also gave us access to our data. We no longer had to wait until the end of the month (when we collected paper calendars and tallied results) to find out how many trips kids had completed. Since parents input the trips every week, we were able to download the data and publish the stats on a weekly basis. Seeing the trips grow week by week definitely encourages more kids to ride.


next up: How to Create the Trip Tracking form!

– Anne

About Anne
A passionate everyday bike rider, spreading the bike love to hundreds of family bikers in Seattle and beyond through trainings, events, and her blogging at since 2007. Co-founder of a number of local bike to school programs and events (Bike2Bryant and Walk.Bike.Schools, Fiets of Parenthood), Anne encourages people to try everyday biking and use bikes for errands and basic, local transportation. While Anne prefers to focus on the fun and empowering aspects of bike riding, she’s also a fully qualified bike instructor (League Cycling Instructor certified by the League of American Bicyclists). Helping people reach their biking goals is a natural fit for Anne, melding her love of active transportation to her former career training people to use complex business systems. As you can imagine, biking training is way more fun.

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