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Who Needs Billboards When You've Got Bikes? 

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Just when you thought we couldn't have any more bicycle businesses in Burlington, another one pedals on by. This time, it's not a bread delivery bike or a compost hauling bike. Nope, this new biz is a bicycle billboard of sorts. You gotta love the enterprise.

Jen Fabiano, an enthusiastic, car-free 26-year-old, rolled out her new business last weekend. It's called advercycle and it's just like it sounds — advertisements on a bicycle. Particularly, a bike outfitted with a special billboard trailer that can go where traditional advertising might not be able to. The idea came to Fabiano, a UVM grad, after reading an article about a guy who sold advertising on the side of his car. It piqued her interest, but since Fabiano doesn't own a car, the idea wouldn't work for her. Plus, all that fossil fuel-burning wasn't super awesome.

But what Fabiano did have was a bike. After doing some research, she found that advertising by bike is actually pretty popular in Australia and parts of Europe, but it really hasn't caught on here. There are similar businesses in New York City and the Pacific Northwest, but that's about all. Despite that, Fabiano thought the concept would be perfect for Burlington.

"I think Burlington is a great location for it," she says. "It's a really bike-friendly city and this is a completely green business."

Advercycle works like this: businesses pay $50 an hour ($40 for nonprofits) to have Fabiano cycle around town  (or hit big events like the Farmers Market or Waterfront concerts) towing a poster broadcasting their services. Along with the cycling, Fabiano is also happy to pass out coupons or serve as an stand-in spokesperson for the business. She wants the business to feel "interactive."

Advertisers can book the advercycle for a full event  (like the Vermont City Marathon) or just for a few hours at a time. At present, Fabiano will only be out with the advercycle on weekends. During the week, she has a full-time job as a community support worker at the HowardCenter. But depending on the concept's popularity, she could have an entire fleet of advercycles.

Ideally, Fabiano says, her clients will be small to medium-sized local and/or green businesses whose ethics and mission align with her own. "I don't want to pull a trailer with Pepsi scrawled on the side. And I'm not going to advertise some right-to-life campaign," she says. "It has to line up with my values."

With the advent of advercycle, that brings our tally of bicycle businesses in the Queen City to a whopping six. That's up from about zero a year ago. What's the next bike biz to hit the streets in Burlington? Perhaps a bicycle medical marijuana dispensary? How about a bicycle cloth diaper delivery service? Bicycle veterinary care? Bicycle landscaping? Will the bike biz madness never end? Now we just need to get some bike infrastructure going (repaving the deathtrap that was S. Winooski Ave. is a good start) and we'll be well on our way to becoming Portland East.

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Lauren Ober

Lauren Ober

Lauren Ober was a Seven Days staff writer from 2009-2011.


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