In a car-centric world, Ian Klepetar, founder of Bicycle Benefits, a rewards program that incentivizes bike use in Madison, has been seeking a sustainable two-wheeled solution to traffic congestion and climate-impacting carbon emissions.
“The goal was always to create a tool for communities to use,” said Klepetar. “I wanted to create a turnkey program to integrate into each community.”
Klepetar set out to create a bicycle program with one simple goal in mind: emphasizing the importance of sustainable transportation in communities throughout the United States. With this vision and a bike, Klepetar set out to change transportation one pedal at a time.
The business model is simple — get a sticker, put it on a helmet, bike, and save.
Originally from Saratoga Springs, New York, Klepetar now moves from city to city, working with local businesses across the country to carry out his plan. His proposition to business owners is simple: Buy a pack of Bicycle Benefits stickers for $2.50 each and sell the stickers to customers for $5. Customers then must place the sticker onto their bike helmets, granting them access to over 100 different perks and discounts from local organizations. Through the inclusion of the helmet, the program also incentivizes helmet use among members.
The support of business owners is what has helped make Madison the most successful branch of Bicycle Benefits so far. An estimated 15,000 program stickers have been sold in the Madison area since its inception in 2008, with the majority of stickers being sold through participating business locations and non-profit bicycling federations in Wisconsin.
With 150 registered local businesses providing discounts and selling stickers through the program, community members can earn a range of benefits, from five percent off your next grocery run at Willy Street Co-op to 10% off a cup of coffee at your local coffee shop to buy one, get one deals on drinks at Madison Tap.
“It really is an ‘everyone project,” Klepetar said about the involvement of local businesses and support from the community. “From distributing stickers to spreading the word…it’s all important.”
Tim Staton, owner of Madison’s Cargo Bike Shop, offers a free sticker with any helmet purchase. Staton believes that programs like these will continue to break down barriers to sustainable transportation.
“It just made sense to us,” Staton said. “It was a low investment, a well-aligned organization and helped promote biking in our community.”
Today, Madison businesses continue to promote not only Bicycle Benefits but the importance of sustainable transportation within the community. Staton believes that the Bicycle Benefits program is just the beginning of the journey to safer roads for bikers and pedestrians.
“It’s increasing ridership and showing that biking is important to Madison,” Staton said. “Every little thing helps break down barriers.”
Events like Car Free Week this past September challenged Madison community members to sign a pledge for a week of alternative transportation.
For Klepetar, bicycles are not simply to get from point A to point B. “We want to empower people to experiment with their mobility,” Klepetar said about Car Free Week. “It is sustainable, makes communities safer and promotes biking within Madison.”