Perks for those who pedal 

It’s a good time to be a bicyclist. In addition to avoiding the whole gas thing, there’s now an independent campaign that offers tangible perks to those who pedal.

In the last few weeks, Bicycle Benefits has gained a foothold in Missoula. Essentially, it works the same as a student ID card. After buying a $5 sticker from a participating local business and slapping it on a bike helmet, riders become eligible for deals at those establishments.

So far, at least 22 stores and restaurants have signed on with the campaign, which was started by Dillon and Ian Klepetar in their hometown of Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The brothers started Bicycle Benefits as an incentive for citizens to switch to more sustainable methods of travel, to improve bike safety (the stickers must be attached to a helmet), and to help quell their personal anxiety over current economic and climate conditions .

“We just needed to channel that shock and worry into something positive,” said Dillon in a recent telephone interview. Since launching in 2006, the program’s expanded to six states and British Columbia.

Locally, the benefits range from food specials to discounts on general merchandise. Bernice’s Bakery, for instance, shaves 20 percent off any purchase and if you buy one slice at The Bridge Pizza, the restaurant offers a second slice for free. Ear Candy Music also jumped on board, taking a dollar off any new or used CD or LP. Employee John Markley hopes it brings in new customers.

“It’s surprising how many people don’t know that the little place next to the skate shop is a record store,” Markley said.

The project’s been so successful that Dillon Klepetar and his brother say they’re already looking to take it to the next level. He jokes that with gas prices expected to remain high, he may need to start helping other types of travelers. Klepetar couldn’t put a date, though, on the launch of “Hummer Benefits.”
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