If you love pedaling or walking, skateboarding or using a foot-powered scooter when you explore a destination, a new app rewards you for leaving the car behind and helping the environment.
Biko (www.bikoapp.com) is a free app for iPhones and Android phones that helps users track and calculate their rides, enabling them to earn free beer, movie tickets and discounts based on kilometers ridden (yes, kilometers).
Users need only launch the app before starting their journey. The app maps your ride, speed and shows calories burned and CO2 saved.
It keeps a running total of your Bikos, the e-coins you exchange for rewards.
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Here’s how it works: You start the app before you begin to pedal, walk, etc. Then, as you progress, you earn 1 Biko per kilometer (about 0.7 mile) traveled.
The app’s onboard map will measure the distance you cover in various places around the world.
You can earn rewards in Bogotá and Medellín, Colombia; Mexico City; Vancouver, Canada; and Los Angeles, which was chosen as the U.S. launch city because of its reputation as a car town.
By the end of May, you can also cash in Bikos in San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., and Seattle.
Meghan Sinnott, a brand manager for helmet manufacturer Nutcase, based in Portland, bikes to work every day. The rewards from Biko are an extra incentive.
"I like the idea of having a digital or monetary high five from Biko for doing what I want to do anyway," Sinnott said.
Emilio Pombo, one of the three Colombian co-founders of Biko, said air pollution in his native Bogotá helped inspire the creation of the app.
“We were actually really worried about the quality of life that our city of birth was offering its citizens a couple of years ago,” he said.
“We had lived the positive experience that biking and active transportation bring and wanted to help more people live in greener and happier cities.
“And the secret sauce was somehow paying them for biking.”
The rewards you can accumulate are as varied as free cups of coffee and discounts on lifestyle gear.
L.A. ‘s more than 30 reward offers include discounts on bicycle repairs, helmets and ice cream.
In Bogotá, where Biko began in 2015, 25 Bikos can be redeemed at Starbucks for a second cup of coffee. (The idea, Pombo said, is that you buy yourself a cup of coffee, then treat a friend to the freebie.)
In Vancouver, where Biko launched last summer, 100 Bikos can be exchanged for a $25 gift card at Big Rock Brewery.
Suzanne Fox, a spokesperson for the brewery, said in an email that 104,500 Bikos were redeemed from September through March. Most redemptions have been for the free appetizer reward, which includes any of the snacks (dry ribs are most popular) at Big Rock Urban, the eatery attached to the brewery.
Several hundred $25 gift cards also have been awarded, she said.
By early April, Biko had 163,470 global users. Although Pombo said most are concentrated in Colombia, Mexico and Canada, the app has been downloaded across the globe because people can earn and stockpile their Bikos until they can redeem them at home or in another city.
So far users have collected 19.5 million Bikos. That represents 2,540 metric tons of carbon saved, keeping the equivalent of emissions from 2.7 million pounds of coal out of the environment, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s equivalency calculator.
Plus, Pombo said, those Bikos also represent 586 million calories burned, which “is like going 500 times around the Earth on a bicycle.”
Slimming your waistline. Saving planet Earth and saving money on gas. Add in rewards for your efforts, and that’s a win-win-win-win.