ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Bicycle Benefits rewards individuals and businesses for their commitment to creating bicycle-friendly communities.
To participate, all you have to do is purchase one of their $5 stickers from a partnering business, and slap it on your bike helmet. This sticker gives members discounts to a multitude of businesses nationwide. When biking to any of these businesses, which are listed on their website, you simply show them your helmet and save.
"... bicycle commuters in the 'car capital of the world' face numerous challenges in relying on bicycles for primary transportation." ~ Ian Klepetar
This may not sound like a big deal but, according to Ian Klepetar, an active team member of Bicycle Benefits, the organization has sold an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 stickers. The organization has made its presence known across the country and has recently expanded to British Columbia.
According to Klepetar, the organization introduces the program to cities that are “working to become more bike-friendly.” When developing in a new area, Bicycle Benefits seeks to gather a “critical mass” of the business community, and then reaches out to people who ride bikes recreationally. Bicycle Benefits influences the behavior of casual cyclists by rewarding them for transitioning from riding recreationally to riding primarily for transportation.
Bicycle Benefits is run completely by volunteers.
“The amount of groundwork is essentially just setting up a program,” Klepetar says. This is important in communities like Ann Arbor, where cyclists want to promote bicycling as a primary method of transportation without becoming too involved in funding a program.
The Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area currently has 38 businesses participating, including Arbor Brewing Company, B-24’s, and Beezy’s Café.
Arbor Brewing Company gives cyclists $1 off every pint of regularly priced beer, B-24’s rewards riders with 20 percent off all coffee and ice cream, and Beezy’s includes a free bowl of soup with every purchase of a whole sandwich or large salad.
Besides their regular sticker idea, Bicycle Benefits is also working on a bike-to-school grant program for 2013. “We’re giving away $200 at 10 different schools this year, and $200 will be used to fund ice cream and popcorn parties,” Klepetar says.
The gist of the program is that kids will be given something saying that they bike to school. Their teachers will then record those students and report back what classes have the highest levels of ridership per school. School teachers or parents will be orchestrating it, and Bicycle Benefits will be funding it.
According to Klepetar, the bike-to-school program has received extremely positive results thus far. For instance, in the Boston area, Whole Foods contacted Bicycle Benefits to voice its interest in sponsoring the program. Klepetar says, “It just goes back to the idea of having some sort of reward system that everyone can get behind.”
Another idea that Bicycle Benefits intends to carry out is a nationwide mentoring program for bicyclists. Essentially, the program will pair bicycle commuters with cyclists who don’t normally rely on bicycling as their primary method of transportation. The purpose of the mentoring program will be to assist would-be bicycle commuters who don’t ride to work or school due to anxiety over unsafe traffic conditions.
According to Klepetar, Bicycle Benefits will begin working on the bike-mentoring program in the next couple of months. Klepetar said, “In my travels in the last five or six years, it’s not that people aren’t riding bicycles because they don’t know how, but that they are not sure how to begin.”
Klepetar remarked that Madison, Wisconsin has the highest per capita numbers, with 100 to 140 businesses participating in the Bicycle Benefits program. That list includes a Whole Foods, two food cooperatives, and two other supermarkets.
Concerning Detroit, only one business currently participates in the program. Klepetar noted that bicycle commuters in the “car capital of the world” face numerous challenges in relying on bicycles for primary transportation. However, he remarked that he would consider returning to Detroit in a couple years to develop the program.
Regarding future participation in Michigan, Klepetar said that he plans to expand the program to Kalamazoo, Michigan in the coming year.