Monetarily Smitten: The Bicycle Benefits Program
Posted: 9:46PM July 16th, 2013 | Comments
While coming to Madison was the ultimate gamble for me, the decision has proved itself to be one of the best I have ever made for nearly every facet of my life. Although, making me an overnight financial success is definitely not one of them, just yet.
It is something you expect when you move somewhere for an unpaid internship and decide to “wing it” in finding a paying gig. However, that has also worked out amazingly well, even if that isn’t mutually exclusive with having money to burn. So, I recently made a budget. Yes, an Excel spreadsheet was involved—and at first, it was fun. Designing the chart. Formulating all the boxes. Color-coding (Don’t judge. It isn’t legit unless you color-code). But it turned a little less fun when I started plugging in actual numbers. Zero fun when my ideal coffee budget got cut in half.
So, when a cashier at Willy Street Co-op asked if I had ever heard of Bicycle Benefits—a national program “designed to reward individuals and businesses for their commitment to cleaner air, personal health, and the use of pedaling energy in order to create a more sustainable community”—it sparked my curiosity. At the co-op alone, I could save 5% on each grocery trip. All I had to do was buy a $5 sticker to place on my bike helmet. It was a no-brainer. I already ride my bicycle to the co-op, and, if my new budget has taught me anything, it is that any help can make a difference. With that, I bought the Bicycle Benefits sticker and saw an immediate return. It paid for itself on that single grocery trip.
When I got home, I went online to scope out other cost-saving deals with Bicycle Benefits in Madison, and was shocked at its value. From hardware stores to pubs to boat rentals, there are over 125 Bicycle Benefits businesses in Madison alone—including an abundance of coffee shops. My coffee addiction is saved!
What I like the most about the Bicycle Benefits program is that it aims to boost local economy at its core, without motor vehicles being part of the equation. Not only here in Madison, but it is a great tool for other communities looking to expand and encourage bike commuting. Public funding comes a lot easier for other biking initiatives—like expanding the number of bike lanes and trails—when current ones are working to benefit the community in more than one way. The environmental perks for this program are balanced with the economic ones. That concept is key in attracting those who otherwise are not being exposed to how environment choices can fit easily into daily life and budgets. And it’s all wrapped up in a friendly reminder to wear your helmet. After all, no helmet, no sticker, no savings.
Personally, I find this to be a great tool in getting me to continue to ride my bicycle to new places. Sometimes it is so easy for me to just say, “Oh, I can just walk,” because I am so close to everything. The program has me traveling new roads, with new situations, that I have otherwise just been a pedestrian on. It all adds up to me getting more universally confident on my bicycle no matter where I am.
So, grab a friend. Make a day of it, and support the businesses that are supporting you, because I can’t think of a better way to spend a sunny Saturday then biking with people you love, exploring Madison—newcomer or not—and having some great conversations along the way. Personally, the idea of coffee shop hopping sounds like heaven—and now I can actually afford to do that once and awhile!
Briana Rosenberg is Sustain Dane’s Communications Intern. After graduating from Winona State University, in 2012, with a B.A. in Mass Communication: Advertising, she returned home to work on various freelance projects. Now living in Madison, WI, she is falling in love with the city and thrilled to be working with Sustain Dane. When she isn’t working, or figuring out Madison’s bike culture, you can find her exploring downtown or held up in one of Madison’s many coffee shops, with a Mocha, reading a good book or working on her own writing.