Ian Klepetar has a pretty sweet gig. He rides his bike from town to town and business to business to sign new members up for Bicycle Benefits. Ian, 31, along with his brother Dillon, thought about developing it while heading up the Saratoga Healthy Transportation Network, a few years back. Basically, Bicycle Benefits encourages people to ride their bikes by offering them incentives for bike commuting.
The premise is simple. Consumers buy a sticker at a participating business, which then offers them some type of kickback when they show up with the sticker on their helmet. This can be anything from 15 percent off specific purchases, like snorkeling gear at a dive shop, to a free cup of coffee or a free drink with a meal purchase. The reward is up to the business. But in today’s economy, when people are clipping coupons and shopping around to get the best bang for their buck, this program would seem like a no-brainer. (Plus, it encourages people to wear their helmets).
Much of its success, however, relies on getting as many businesses to participate as possible since only then will the sticker hold any value for its user. Currently, Ian says about 470 businesses—a mix of cafes, bike shops, fine dining, retail and service-oriented businesses such as massage and yoga studios—participate in the program, which has a good presence in about five states. In strong cities, such as Burlington, Vermont, Ian has gotten well-known merchants, such as Papa John’s and Ben & Jerry’s to sign up. The program exists in only 10 states, so obviously, he’s got his work cut out for him. (As far as I can tell there are no BB members in my neck of the woods.)
This seems to be right up the alley for bike shops as an easy way to get involved in advocacy. Buy a few stickers, slap a Bicycle Benefits member decal on your window and a counter-top display by the register and you’re set. So I was somewhat surprised to hear that bike shops have been slow to jump on the bandwagon. Ian says of all the establishments he’s visited, bike shops are the toughest sell. Maybe many of them already offer different discounts or commuter perks. Or maybe they encourage cycling for short trips or errands in other ways. Or maybe they're just not into stickers.
I’m sure a sticker and small incentive won’t convince everyone to sometimes give up four wheels for two. But it’s still a creative way to spread the word about cycling. And in the end isn’t that what we’re all after?
Thanks Ian for sending a sticker my way. I hope to soon cash in on some free coffee, a slice of pizza or a smoothie…hint, hint.
Bicycle Benefits window decal