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'Bike District' in East Village, Lower East Side Offers Deals to Cyclists

By Serena Solomon | September 21, 2012 12:53pm

EAST VILLAGE — Not having to pay for gas isn't the only thing saving cyclists cash.

Bike-loving businesses of the East Village and Lower East Side are banding together to create a "bicycle district" that will give discounts to those who prefer to travel on two wheels.

Transportation Alternatives, the nonprofit group that advocates for cyclists, is launching the initiative Saturday with a map outlining businesses that offer deals to bikers, while also working with local stores to improve biking infrastructure.

The district is an extension of the group's citywide Bike Friendly Business program, in which stores notify riders using window stickers showing where they can receive discounts and freebies for using pedal power.

"You can really have the whole East Village and Lower East Side experience on your bike," said Miller Nuttle, a bicycle advocate with the membership-based Transportation Alternatives.

About 150 businesses have already registered as "bike friendly" in the two neighborhoods, leading Transportation Alternatives to choose the area for its first-ever cycling district. Businesses included in the district will provide perks such as 15-percent off clothing and hats at Reason Outpost on East Ninth Street, or two-for-one drinks at Luca Lounge on Avenue B.

"There is a high concentration of bikes lanes, biking infrastructure and the two bridges (Williamsburg and Manhattan) that really feed riders in the neighborhood," Nuttle said of why the area was chosen.

Saturday's 11 a.m. launch of the district, to be held at longtime Second Avenue restaurant Veselka, will be followed by a bike tour of some of the local businesses included on the freshly printed maps. 

Along with producing the map, Transportation Alternatives will also market the area to hotels and travel agencies, as well as to local cyclists, in order to draw them to the East Village and Lower East Side.

"You have more visibility for every person that is above ground," said Lisa Fischoff, co-owner of  Pushcart Coffee on East Broadway, which is a designated bike-friendly business in the new district. "They (bikers) are seeing more businesses that they might not see if they had jumped on the subway and gone underground."

Fischoff sees a direct link between the neighborhood’s bike accessibility and healthy business. In fact, Pushcart spent eight months negotiating with the Department of Transportation this year to install three bike racks out front of its location at the corner of Clinton Street.

"Having a place to park your bike is much more welcoming than a street post," said Fischoff, who herself rides a bike and “can’t remember the last time I took the subway or a cab."

Pushcart will offer cyclist a 10-percent discount on coffee and tea as part of the program. 

At Saturday's launch, Transportation Alternatives will also be submitting about 50 applications to the DOT for bike racks to be installed outside some district businesses.

"We are going to advocate for bike parking, walk businesses through that process," said Nuttle, of how the organization will continue to develop the district as a biking destination.

"Streets that have amenities like bike lanes, bike racks and bike plazas are just more vibrant places to be."