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Saturday, October 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 57.0° F  Fog/Mist
The Daily
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Businesses compete, burn calories and save gas with Get Up and Bike Wisconsin Challenge

Bike to Work Week's popular Commuter Challenge has outgrown Bike to Work Week and split off to become the Get Up and Bike Wisconsin Challenge. With thousands of bicycle commuters competing last year in a statewide competition to claim Bike to Work Week mileage bragging rights, this may have been inevitable.

Amanda White, the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin's associate director, hopes the Challenge in partnership with title sponsor Scott brands -- will carry momentum generated by Bike to Work Week through the warmest months of the bicycle-commuting season. Underway since mid-May and continuing through the end of September, the challenge is generating results that suggest White's ambitions are well-founded.

Through its first eight days, the challenge had registered more than 3,200 participants representing scores of employers -- including some you might expect (Planet Bike, Saris Cycling Group, Trek Bicycle Corp.) but also many you might not (Alliant Energy, American TV, Harley-Davidson, Johnson Controls, Madison Gas & Electric, MillerCoors, Oshkosh Truck Defense, Spectrum Brands, The Sow's Ear, United Parcel Service, US Bancorp), plus various municipalities, fire and police departments, legal firms, colleges and school districts.

So far, participants have logged a total of almost 70,000 miles (though these numbers climb almost every time you revisit the Challenge website, and by the time you read this may have climbed by hundreds or even thousands of additional miles). The database calculator figures this has burned a collective 1.25 million calories, saving almost 30,000 pounds of carbon dioxide that would have been spewed through automobile exhaust had these commutes been driven in automobiles. The database also calculates dollar savings.

The participant database generates leader boards listing individuals, employers, teams and metropolitan statistical areas. (In the latter category, Madison ranks second at this writing, behind only all the state's non-metropolitan areas.) The variety on the list of employers suggests a growing range of businesses interested in promoting employee wellness while suppressing health-insurance and transportation costs.

At the moment, Kimberly-Clark has jumped out to a commanding lead, closing in on 5,000 miles at this writing, with Epic Systems in hot pursuit at about 3,200 miles (though these numbers climb almost every time you log back on, and by the time you read this may have climbed by hundreds more miles). UW-Madison is next, followed by Northwestern Mutual, the cities of Milwaukee and Madison, Briggs and Stratton, Promega and the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District.

"Anybody can log on and see the real-time data," says White.

Beyond the early rivalries established by the Challenge, incentives include periodic prize drawings. Challenge participants are awarded one entry into the drawing for each trip they commute by bike (up to two points per day for one round-trip) and for each 10 miles logged during their bicycle commutes. The winner of the drawing at the end of Bike to Work Week, for example, gets a new Schwinn bike, according to White.

"What we want to do with the Challenge is extend that Bike to Work Week effort and make it more habitual, so people don't do Bike to Work Week and then slack off," says White. By the end of the Challenge, organizers hope to see some big cumulative total numbers. "Our goal," says White, "is a million miles."

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