You may have seen the sticker on the door of one of more than 170 businesses in Charlotte. It’s yellow and blue with a stick figure dude riding a bike.

You may not have known that it’s the key to you getting tons of free and discounted stuff around the city just by riding your bike.

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Bicycle Benefits is a nationwide program designed to encourage people to ride their bikes to businesses by rewarding them with discounts and specials at local businesses. Pamela Murray, founder of Charlotte Spokes People and the extremely popular Plaza Midwood Tuesday Night Ride, brought the program to Charlotte in 2013.

About 170 businesses have registered with the program, Murray said, from bars and breweries to doctors and hair salons.

Basically the idea is: If the environmental and health benefits of riding a bike aren’t enough to get you to do it more, maybe getting a free beer or cheap haircut will convince you.

“I wanted people to have destinations to ride to,” Murray said. “It’s encouraging people to bike to businesses rather than driving so they won’t have parking problems. Especially in urban areas.”

How it works:

Simple.

(1) Buy a Bike Benefits sticker from a participating business for $5. They never expire, and if yours falls off or gets destroyed, Murray says she’ll hook you up with a new one.

(2) Slap it on your helmet. Safety first.

(3) Bike to a participating business, show your sticker, and get deals like:

– Buy-one, get-one-free pizza at Brixx.
– A free flight of three non-alcoholic kombuchas at Lenny Boy Brewing. (Many of the other breweries also have deals.)
– A free drink or chips with an entree at Phat Burrito.
– 10 percent off classes and free mat rental at Be Yoga.
– 10 percent off at Dilworth Eye Associates.

That’s just the beginning: Go here for a map and more deals, or here for a “pocket list.”

“Most people will tell you that the beer ones are their favorites,” Murray said, but she likes the hair salon discounts “because hair always grows back.”

True. But the beer deals are pretty sweet.

Bicycle Benefits is a not-for-profit program, Murray said. Businesses buy the stickers for $2.50 each and keep the other $2.50 when a sticker is sold. Murray said that Charlotte Spokes People’s portion of the sales go to support things like:

– Cycling Savvy class scholarships
– Bike pumps at various businesses around town
– Ride support (extra innertubes, pumps, loaner bikes, etc.) on group rides like Sunday Slow Riders and PMTNR.

“A lot of people think it’s not a bike-friendly city but it is,” Murray said. “If we can build a good relationship between cyclists and local businesses, I think that’s a big thing.”

Murray estimates that about 2,000 helmet stickers are floating around the city, giving people access to $3 pints at Courtyard Hooligans and 10 percent off at Rhino Market and Deli.

“You really can do everything on a bike,” Murray said. Like get a free 12-ounce beer at Birdsong Brewing. Everyone knows free beer tastes better.

Photos: Corey Inscoe; Jeff Willhelm/Charlotte Observer

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