Nick Miller and his family moved to Rochester last year in part because of their love for bicycling.
Miller bikes at least once a day, if not for work or groceries then with his children. He and other local bicyclists hope more Rochester residents will do the same as local businesses have begun offering discounts and perks to encourage more people to travel by bike.
“So much of the way that cities have become more and more spread out and disconnected in many ways [is] requiring more complicated transportation,” Miller said. “It’s created some distance between people and the local businesses that have thrived.”
Miller is a board member of We Bike Rochester, a local chapter of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota. Last week, the advocacy group unveiled its bicycle benefits program modeled after a national initiative in which businesses encourage more biking.
In the metro area, more than 100 businesses participate, including more than 50 in Minneapolis alone.
The 17 businesses participating in Rochester range from bike shops and outdoors stores to coffeehouses, breweries, grocery markets and bookstores.
Those businesses offer stickers under the program that allow bikers several discounts, from 10% off purchases at Café Steam and Garden Party Books to a free coffee at Forager Brewery per visit, 50 cents off a drink at the Fiddlehead Coffee Co. or $1 off a pint at Kinney Creek Brewery.
“It brings a lot more light to those amenities that Rochester has,” said Will Forsman, co-owner of Café Steam. “We have a great trail system; we have great bike paths and improved infrastructure to allow for bicycles on streets.”
Minnesota is considered one of the most bike-friendly states in the U.S., while Minneapolis ranks among the top metropolitan areas for biking in the country.
Rochester has garnered attention for its own bike-friendly practices. The area has more than 85 miles of trails throughout the community and connects to trail systems throughout southeast Minnesota. The city was labeled a Bicycle Friendly Community in 2010 by the League of American Bicyclists, one of the first cities in Minnesota to earn the title.
Local officials list more bike infrastructure among its transportation and sustainability goals, including as part of a near-complete update of Rochester’s transportation plan. The city is hiring a transportation coordinator to help implement some of those ideas over the next few years.
“There’s more and more awareness of biking being a legitimate option, and even a practical option, for getting around town,” said Nate Nordstrom of the New Spin Bicycle Shop.
Nordstrom opened the shop last year, in part because of growing interest in e-bikes. The motorized bikes have become a popular seller in the bicycling industry as it eliminates some of the strain on bicyclists as they ride.
With e-bikes making it easier to travel to work or transport goods, Nordstrom said initiatives like Rochester’s bicycle-friendly business program will likely draw more people interested in saving money on gas or concerned about the environment to turn to bicycles.
Miller said it was easy to entice businesses to participate as many owners were already bicycling fans. We Bike Rochester plans to expand the program by partnering with more local businesses, though they’re not opposed to big box stores joining if corporations can offer decent perks for bicyclists.
More businesses will mean more advocacy to make Rochester easier to bike around, and more opportunities for families like the Millers.
“It’s not necessarily the perfect place or the safest place to bike around as a means of transportation right now, but Rochester has a lot of potential for the future,” Miller said. “And we want to be part of that, encouraging people to show that biking is a fun and very efficient way of getting around.”