Denver will now pay residents who commute on bikes to meet city's climate goals

A group of bikes sit together in a bike rack

Reduced emissions, physical activity, and the joy of experiencing the outdoors are likely the most well-known benefits of bicycle commuting. But now, some Denver residents will get an added bonus when they opt for their bike: cold, hard cash.

The city’s new Bicycling Rewards Program — which was created by the Denver Streets Partnership and Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency — aims to encourage community members to ride a bike instead of driving.

The program comes as a response to the city’s lagging climate goals. According to Denver Streets Partnership, transportation was responsible for 30% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, and this incentive is part of a larger research project to see what motivates locals to ditch their cars.

Applications to participate in the rewards program are open through the end of this month, and the program will run on a pilot basis from March through June. (The program is also hiring three part-time “Bike Buddies” to facilitate and support participants.)

A screenshot of the Bicycling Rewards Program under the Denver Streets Partnership
Photo courtesy of the Denver Streets Partnership

There are three ways locals can get paid for their bike-riding.

The first is through mileage reimbursement, in which up to 85 participants will receive a $1 per mile traveled on bike (“for the sake of transportation; not recreation,” the city is clear to say). This can culminate in up to $200 per month.

Another option is a “wrap-around support” model, in which participants will receive commuter training and up to four hours of personalized coaching, as well as a stipend for bike-related costs (up to $500), and a $200 payment upon completing the program. 

Only 15 participants may enroll in the wrap-around model and are required to use a bicycle for transportation at least once per week.

The last option is a hybrid of the mileage reimbursement and commuter training programs and will also be capped at 15 participants.

A person rides their bike in the middle of a Denver street
Photo courtesy of Denver Streets Partnership

The city does have demographic requirements for the program. Applicants must be 18 years or older and live in Denver city limits. The program also plans to prioritize folks who live in neighborhoods identified as “historically disinvested communities in danger of gentrification.”

“We are further prioritizing people who have been burdened the most from our current transportation system and would stand to benefit the most from participating in this program,” Denver Streets Partnership’s website states. 

Through both short-term and long-term incentives, the organization aims to prioritize people of color and those with lower incomes. 

Denver isn’t the first city to offer financial incentives for bike commuters. Boise, Idaho offers free bike repairs and other perks; Washington, D.C. offers public school teachers a $200 bonus to purchase a bike for commuting; and Palo Alto pays bike commuters up to $600 a year for their rides.

This also isn’t the first biking incentive out of Denver’s climate office; e-bike rebate vouchers are a hot commodity among the city’s cyclists.

“Get funds from Denver to help you create a more sustainable life,” the office’s website encourages “Everyday Denverites.”

“From our popular e-bike rebate program to funding for neighborhood groups, we want to help Denverites thrive in a sustainable city.”

Header image courtesy of Kalen Jesse Photography/Denver Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency

Article Details

February 16, 2024 12:20 PM
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