Quick Hit Anthony Burke Boylan Tuesday May 20th, 2014, 5:51pm

Chicago Neighborhoods, Businesses Look To Encourage Increased Bike Riding With Deals

Leaders in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood are hoping to encourage more bike traffic by having local businesses attract riders with discounts. Anyone interested in learning about the program or offering input can come to a workshop meeting this Tuesday evening.

The program is a continuation of the Lakeview Area Master Plan, a product of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce and Special Service Area 27, a body that uses local property taxes for projects beneficial to the neighborhood. The plan, which was launched three years ago, aims to make Lakeview more appealing to shoppers, visitors and residents by making it greener, more bike- and pedestrian-friendly, and adding public art and green spaces.

A bike friendly business district will incorporate discounts at local businesses for riders and improved infrastructure from bike lanes and racks to stations where riders can make minor bike repairs, put air in their tires and fill up water bottles. Businesses that sign up for the program will get branded logo decals to place in their windows informing people of their eligibilty for discounts if they patronize the store and show their bike helmet.

“Biking is good for business,’’ said Heather Way-Kitzes, executive director of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce. “People stay closer to home, they spend more time in the area, they move at slower speeds and have a greater awareness of the businesses around them.

“The faster they pass by, the less likely they are to end up at your cash register.’’

More bike traffic in an area also eases traffic congestion, alleviates parking shortages and reduces pollution. Tonight's event will take place at J.P. Burke’s Patio and Tap, located at 2913 N. Lincoln Ave., from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome, but guests are asked to RSVP at [email protected].

The West Town Chamber of Commerce and its affiliated SSA have similar plans in partnership with the Lakeview Chamber. They hope to take advantage of a mile of new protected bike lane along Milwaukee Avenue and a bike corral donated by the City of Chicago to launch an even broader cycling initiative.

“This is a really good fit for us, our businesses and our neighborhood demographic,’’ said Katherine Wakem, the West Town SSA program manager. “A lot of our residents are hardcore riders -- they will ride all year round.’’

Wakem said the kind of events that might be featured in bike friendly business districts include intra-neighborhood rides that demonstrate safe and efficient passages, neighborhood bike tours that feature local businesses, and special discounts and programs for bike-to-work week.

Both Lakeview and West Town are working with the Active Transportation Alliance, a Chicago-area organization that encourages bike, pedestrian and mass transit alternatives to driving.

“With all the great new things such as bike lanes, the Divvy program, we want to help create destinations in which small businesses benefit from cycling,’’ said Jim Merrell, campaign director for Active Transportation Alliance. “We want to create some successful models and get more and more neighborhoods to replicate the program.’’

While biking is good for the community as a whole, getting local business involved creates incentives to get more people riding and spreading the word. One local business eager to participate in a broader program has had a bike-incentive program for about seven years — Wishbone, a restaurant with locations in Lakeview and the West Loop, offers a 15% discount to anyone showing a bike helmet Monday through Friday.

“We have a lot of people come in and bring friends because of our bike promotion’’ said Wishbone owner Guy Nickson, noting that many of the cyclists do it because they believe in the idea and often have to be reminded to take their discount. “I don’t know how you can assume the value of the goodwill it creates, but everyone likes that it eases the congestion and parking problems, even if they are not bikers.

“It wins on so many levels.’’

Image: AP Photo/Scott Eisen

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