Divvy Bike Downtown

A person rides Divvy bike during a rainy morning in Chicago on May 15. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune / May 15, 2014)

The Lakeview and West Town chambers of commerce want to bill their neighborhoods as bike-friendly places to spend money, and are working to unveil a joint program to offer discounts to cyclists in June.

Lakeview chamber officials have recruited about 25 businesses to participate the “Bike Friendly Business District” program, executive director Heather Kitzes said. West Town has recruited a similar number of businesses, its program director said.

Both chambers said the concept is to create a zone where businesses and community groups promote bicycle use as part of their neighborhood ‘brand’ with special promotions and cycling infrastructure such as bike racks or fix-it stations.

After consulting with the city and Active Transportation Alliance, the neighborhoods sought to market their bike-friendly programs together.

“We have a huge biking population that lives and works in West Town, and quite a few bike shops as well,” said Katharine Wakem, program manager for the West Town chamber.

“After seeing the overall trend of the amount of bikers that come to the area, as well as what people are into, the ideas started flowing.

“… It’s exciting because I feel like this is going to be a really popular program that we’re doing together,” she said.

The exact details are still a work in progress. But eventually cyclists who show up to a participating neighborhood businesses with their helmet might be eligible for a free cup of coffee, pastry or discounts on other services.

Organizers are also looking into events that would bring cyclists from one neighborhood to the other.

“Biking is good for business,” Kitzes said. “Some businesses, we’re hoping, will get really creative with what they’re offering to bikers.”

For Lakeview, the idea is rooted in the neighborhood’s master plan, a segment of which calls for expanded bike infrastructure in the area. “Lakeview is congested,” Kitzes said. “Which is great because it means more people are coming to the area, but promoting biking is a great way to alleviate car congestion. It’s healthy, it has multiple benefits.”

The chamber director said studies also show cycling customers tend to spend and shop more.

“And they’re more likely to stay local, they’re more likely to shop in their neighborhood,” Kitzes said. “When people are moving slower, they’re just more aware of what’s going on.”

For now, Kitzes and Wakem said the chambers are working to develop the program. More details should be released by the time it’s set to launch in June.

Jjperez@tribune.com

@PerezJr