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Biking business boom: More city merchants offering deals for bikers

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Bike Credit: Getty Images

At The Candy Rush in Crown Heights, bicyclists stop by for doughnuts and gummy bears. On the Lower East Side, they pop into Luca Lounge for beers. At Brooklyn Roasting Company, they pick up espresso shots.

These businesses are among hundreds of shops, cafes and bars trying to lure cyclists with discounts and other incentives - a trend being driven by the Bloomberg administration's push to make New York the biking capital of the East Coast.

"Many businesses understand that bicyclists means business," said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, a group that tracks bike-friendly businesses. He predicts bike-friendly businesses will grow in the months ahead to 1,000 from around 250.

Despite resistance in some neighborhoods, the Bloomberg administration has expanded the city's bike lanes by about 350 miles, added curbside racks for parking and recently introduced a bike-sharing program.

Merchants say they are trying to capitalize on biking's popularity.

"The wheels were turning from every direction to get us aligned with the cycling community," said Jim Munson, owner of Brooklyn Roasting Company in DUMBO, the roaster of which doubles a bike mechanic.

Kevin Phillip, who owns The Candy Rush with his wife Garnett, said the 10% discount they give riders is to attract potential customers who ride along Franklin Avenue and to encourage people to ditch their cars.

"As long as we get people in the shop, it's good for business," he said, adding they are trying to get the city's Department of Transportation to convert a car parking space into bike parking with racks.

With bars, the breaks get tricky. A Department of Health study of cycling fatalities from 1996-2005 found that 21% of cyclists who died had alcohol in their system within three hours of the accident. The statistics makes cycling advocates reluctant to plug bike-welcoming bars, but several giving breaks said they carefully monitor cyclists' booze intake.

"We don't let anyone come in drunk or leave drunk, especially on a bicycle. We'd take their bike [LOCK] key away from them but we've never had to do that," said Vito DiTomaso, co-owner of Luca Lounge and Luca Bar on the Lower East Side, which offer drink specials for riders.

Still, Transportation Alternatives expects its list of 250 bike-friendly businesses to expand, primarily through door-to-door outreach to merchants and recommendations from cyclists for which spots to recognize.

"Hopefully, eventually all New York places will be bike-friendly," White said.

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