IanKlepetarIan Klepetar has been living out of a tent — and building a business empire.

No, he doesn’t have a degree in economics. He’s got no desire to fatten his bank account. Klepetar’s web of nearly 900 businesses is strictly aimed at enriching communities by increasing bicycling.

Three years ago, Klepetar started Bicycling Benefits, an incentive program designed to reward individuals who ride their bikes to shop and dine, and the businesses that support them.

The concept is like any other discount program. In the dozen cities that have embraced Bicycling Benefits, residents can buy a sticker for $5. They slap that sucker on their bike helmet and, when they patron participating businesses, they get a deal on their purchase. Cyclists like keeping some extra money in their pockets. Businesses like expanding their customer base and increasing client loyalty. And the whole community benefits from the shift toward sustainable transportation.

Last week, Klepetar stopped by the Alliance for Biking & Walking in Washington, DC. Laid back in his t-shirt and board shorts, the 32-year-old had hitchhiked the 200 miles to the nation’s capital after running a 50K trail race in Pennsylvania. Since he started Bicycle Benefits, Klepetar has embraced the rambling lifestyle, spending the majority of 2010 pedaling between towns to pitch his idea by day and bedding down as an opportunistic urban camper each night.

The Saratoga Springs native isn’t new to cycling, but says he’s still a relative newcomer to the world of advocacy. “I was a recreational cyclist,” he says. “I did some mountain biking and racing, but it was a couple of events that really pushed me into advocacy. A cyclist and pedestrian were hit in my home town, and I thought, ‘Something has to happen.’”

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