A new program that forges a relationship between local businesses and cyclists is gaining so much momentum that it will likely become an annual event.
The ’s “Route 5 Passport” program, initiated in May, has gathered several thousand supporters. The campaign encourages bicyclists to patronize local businesses along the Route 5 bicycle corridor — which parallels Highway 101 — as well as connecting routes extending east and west.
"We want people to realize that it’s easier to bike than they thought,” said MCBC Membership Director Tom Boss. “We’re hoping to get more people to ride when going to the movies, shopping or going out for dinner.”
Boss added that the campaign was also expected to help alert cyclists that two primary bike paths — CalPark Tunnel and Lincoln Pathway — are once again open for riders.
The campaign provides a “passport” to participants, which is a lengthy list of local merchants offering discounts to participants. Provided people pedal to those businesses, they qualify for a wide range of deals. The idea has been met with support from both cyclists and merchants.
“I have used it a few times in Fairfax,” said Brianna Georgi, food policy coordinator for the Youth Leadership Institute. “I love it, such a good idea.”
“It works out for all of us,” said Brian Popplewell of , one of the participating businesses. “When we heard about this, we jumped on it. It’s a great idea.”
Popplewell said Mike’s two locations in Sausalito and San Rafael along Route 5 are offering discounts even beyond what it provides to MCBC members, including tires and helmets. “It’s always a good idea to have a helmet,” Popplewell said.
The participating merchants range from restaurants to grocery stores to a myriad of services and shops. Boss said he thought he set an “ambitious” goal of securing 100 businesses in the campaign’s inaugural year, and he managed to come very close to meeting that goal — 92 businesses signed on.
In all, 10,000 of the passports were distributed to the participating businesses. To engage new cyclists to use Route 5, MCBC scheduled 6-10 weeks of free, guided bicycle activities along the corridor and feeder routes. Locations like the Marin Country Mart in Larkspur, downtown San Rafael and Northgate Mall are serving as start and end points for group rides, bringing new cycling customers to those local businesses.
Bicyclists who use the Passport will receive special offers simply for riding their bikes to merchants on the Route 5 corridor (Novato to Corte Madera), including a buy-one-beverage, get-one-free at Coffee; buy one ice cream dessert, get one free at ; half off the first laser hair removal treatment at the ; and 20 percent off one item at Z-Gallerie.
Boss said the campaign is helping businesses reach the one-in-five Marin adults, or more than 50,000 people, that already ride bicycles — and the 200,000 others they want to get started.
The MCBC has added some group rides to the campaign. In July, the following events are scheduled:
Sat., July 9: Ride to Giants vs. Mets. Ride starts at Mike's Bikes, San Rafael at 11 am. Fee $40
Fri., July 15: Pub Crawl. Ride starts at in Fairfax
Sat., July 23: Ride from Whole Foods, Mill Valley to Marin County Mart
Sat., July 30: Ride to matinee at Century Larkspur Landing, time TBD
Visit marinbike.org or call Tom Boss at (415) 272-2756 for more information.