Rochester Cyclists, a business startup program to get more people pedaling

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Nick Miller and his family moved to Rochester last year because of their passion for cycling.

Miller bikes at least once a day, if not for work or groceries, then with his kids. He and other local cyclists hope that more Rochester residents will do as local businesses start offering discounts and perks to get more people to bike.

“Many of the roads cities are expanding from time to time and many roads are disconnected [is] Requiring more complex transportation, Miller said, “created some distance between people and local businesses.”

Miller is a board member of We bike Rochester, the local chapter of the Minnesota Bicycle Alliance. Last week, the advocacy group unveiled its Bike Benefits program, a national initiative designed to encourage businesses to bike more.

In the metro area, more than 100 businesses participate, including more than 50 in Minneapolis alone.

The 17 participating Rochester businesses range from bike shops and outdoor shops to bars, breweries, grocery markets and bookstores.

Those businesses will offer stickers under the program that allow cyclists many discounts, from 10% off Cafe Steam and Garden Party books to free coffee with a visit to Forager Brewery, at Fiddlehead Coffee Co. Drinks are 50 cents or less than $1 off a pint at Kinney Creek Brewery.

“It brings a lot more light to those facilities that Rochester has,” said Will Forsman, owner of Cafe Steam. “We have a great trail system; we have good bike lanes and improved infrastructure to allow bikes on the street.”

Minnesota is considered one of the most bike-friendly states in the US, with Minneapolis being one of the top metropolitan areas for cycling in the country.

Rochester has garnered attention for its bike-friendly practices. The area has over 85 miles of trails throughout the community and connects to trail systems throughout southeastern Minnesota. The city was named a Bike Friendly Community in 2010 by the League of American Bicyclists, one of the first cities in Minnesota to earn the designation.

Local officials list more bike infrastructure among their transportation and sustainability goals, part of a recent update to Rochester’s transportation plan. The city is hiring a transportation coordinator to implement these ideas over the next few years.

“There’s more awareness that biking is a legitimate option and a practical option for getting around town,” says Nate Nordstrom of New Spin Bike Shop.

Nordstrom opened the store last year, in part because of growing demand for e-bikes. Motorcycles have become a popular seller in the cycling industry as they take some of the pressure off cyclists while riding.

Nordstrom said that with e-bikes that make it easier to commute to work or transport goods, a bike-friendly business program like Rochester’s will make more people interested in saving money on gas or caring about the environment.

Persuading businesses to participate was easy, Miller said, since many of the owners were already cycling enthusiasts. We Bike Rochester plans to expand the program by partnering with other local businesses, although we’re not opposed to big box stores joining in if corporations can offer great benefits to cyclists.

More businesses mean more advocacy for bike-friendly Rochester and more opportunities for families like the Millers.

“Right now it’s not the right place or the safest place to ride a bike as a mode of transportation, but Rochester has a lot of potential for the future,” Miller said. “And we want to be a part of that by encouraging people to show that cycling is a fun and very efficient way to get around.”

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