Need a little more encouragement to commute or run an errand on your bicycle?
What if you could get a 10% or 15% discount off breakfast at the local cafe or coffee shop, a free banana with your groceries or an energy bar with your purchase at a bike shop?
I stumbled across just such a program in Seattle recently. It’s called Bicycle Benefits and it’s a nationwide program that rewards bicyclists with discounts and perks while steering them to participating businesses.
To join, bicyclists need only buy a small sticker for $5 and attach it to their helmet. They can buy the sticker at participating shops or online. When they wear their helmet into a business that supports the program, they get a reward.
Seattle is just one of dozens of cities in 25 states, as well as British Columbia, where businesses that support the program.
This was such a neat idea, I contacted Ian Klepetar, one of the co-founders, to find out more about it.
Ian said he had returned to his home of Saratoga Springs, New York, a few years ago to hear about some “unfortunate events” that had happened involving bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists. He and others formed a local advocacy group, Bikeatoga, that focused on awareness, encouragement and education about healthy transportation.
Meanwhile, Pedal Pass in Salt Lake City was offering discount cards for bicyclists. The incorporated that idea, using helmet stickers instead of cards, to launch Bicycle Benefits. Salt Lake City become the first town west of the Mississippi River to participate.
Currently, volunteers in the various cities are doing the groundwork to get more recognition for the program. The program is a huge success. Ian said:
“The success stories are so widespread — testimonials from people riding more and driving less, bike racks filling up, regular customers biking to the businesses more. It’s one of those things that can’t be quantified but I’m pretty sure that it’s working.”
Today, some 50,000 stickers have been distributed to bicyclists and nearly 1,500 businesses nationwide are participating.
[By the way, I was just reminded that Ian Klepetar received the Pacesetter Award in 2012 from the Adventure Cycling Association. They said: "Through his work with Bicycle Benefits, Klepetar has created a bigger awareness of what is possible, accessible, and enjoyable by bike."]
Finding a business
It’s easy enough to find a local business that participates in the program. Most have a sticker in the window on the counter inside.
Also, an interactive online map helps you to browse what businesses are Bicycle Benefits participants in your area.
In Washington state, for instance, Seattle has 105 businesses that participate in the program. They include diners, breweries, bars, grocery stores, coffee shops, bike shops and even a store that sells sex toys. Spokane and Everett also have participating businesses.
A Facebook page for Seattle shares some of the hot local deals.
To join, I searched the map to find a business close to one of my bike routes. I chose the Caffe Vita over in Seward Park. Bicycle Benefits businesses are encouraged to have bike racks available, and I locked up at the one in front of the cafe. The Bicycle Benefits sticker was posted on the counter and the server sold me a helmet sticker for $5. When I paid for a cinnamon bun, she gave me a 10% discount.
This is such a great idea, I’d like to see more businesses participate. In fact, the website suggests how to encourage businesses in your neighborhood to join the program.