Promoting Inclusivity with Income-Based Sliding Scale Pricing

  • Cascade has introduced sliding scale pricing for maintenance and riding classes, the Ride for Major Taylor, and last year's Auction.
  • Our goal is to enable more people to learn, ride, and join our growing bicycling community.
  • Individuals with lower incomes can pay less, and those with higher incomes can pay more.
Riding my electric cargo bike is my favorite thing

Paul Tolmé

Amy Korver teaching an adult Learn to Ride class

All nonprofits need revenue to carry out their missions. But charging fees can create barriers to participation.

That’s why, in 2023, Cascade implemented a sliding-scale or income-based fee structure for our riding and maintenance classes, including Learn to Ride. 

Instead of a set fee for all, we ask people to pay the amount they can afford, from $5 to $160, based on their income and the type of class they are taking. We urge people with lower incomes to pay less, and people with higher incomes to pay more. 

The goal is to eliminate financial hurdles for people who want to learn or improve their bicycling skills–and to become a more equitable, inclusive, and welcoming organization.

Initially, there was concern that everyone would choose the lowest suggested fee, thereby reducing revenues for our classes, which are essentially a break-even mission-driven program for Cascade. After all, we pay our talented instructors more than the market rate, and even before sliding scale pricing was implemented, we charged less than the market rate for classes and lessons.

Initial worries proved to be unfounded. We increased the financial stability of our instructional program, making it less dependent on Cascade's events and fundraising. And we increased class registrations (and subsequent classes offered) by 39 percent compared to 2022.

Importantly, more than half of our Learn to Ride students identified as women or people of color.

We served more people and enabled individuals on tight budgets to learn the freedom and joy of bicycling.

Staff member Amy Korver, who inspired Cascade to implement sliding-scale pricing.
Community Education Manager Amy Korver inspired Cascade to implement sliding-scale pricing. We are so happy she did! 

“Our community of participants really paid their fair share,” says Community Education Manager Amy Korver, the initial creator of Cascade’s sliding-scale program. “I’m so proud that we were able to get these great programs to more people who are interested, and that we have a community that understands the value of supporting one another.”

Sliding Scale Pricing Expands in 2024 

This year, we have expanded our sliding-scale pricing to include the Ride for Major Taylor presented by REI Co-op, and an income-driven donation option to the Emerald City Ride supported by Western Washington Honda Dealers.

For the Ride for Major Taylor on April 21, we offer sliding scale prices of $50, $75, $150, $250, and $500. The youth price is $30. In prior years, we charged a flat fee for adults of $140 for this ride, which is a fundraiser for our education programs.

For the Emerald City Ride, one of Cascade’s most expensive events to produce, we have set a base price including sales tax of $55 for adults and $22 for youth. For those who can afford more, we have created tiers that allow people to make a tax-deductible donation for any amount over $55 to support safe streets advocacy. Cascade will email you a receipt for your donation (the amount above $55).

In the future, Cascade hopes to expand the sliding scale pricing system to most or all of our rides and events. We hope this change, along with others Cascade is taking to advance equity and support underrepresented communities, leads to a racial demographic breakdown in our programs and events that matches the population of King County and across the regions we serve.

A Cascade instructor teaching an adult student.
A Cascade instructor in action last fall. Our instructors are knowledgeable and patient individuals who help people of all ages and abilities learn riding and maintenance skills..

“Our goal is to help more people get out and enjoy bicycling for health, happiness, recreation, and transportation,” says Lee Lambert. “Empowering people to pay what they can afford directly aligns with our mission to advance equity and inclusion.”

An Honesty Policy that Supports Our Mission 

When we announced the tiered pricing, a few people expressed concern. Why is Cascade asking people to choose an income range, and what are we doing with that information? 

Rest assured that Cascade has a strict privacy policy about data collection. We don’t ask for bank statements or any proof that you’ve chosen the accurate income range. This is an honesty-based policy. Regardless of our suggested income tiers, we trust you to choose the correct amount to suit your budget.

Cascade has taken many steps over the past few years to become more equitable and inclusive. Sliding scale pricing is one of those steps. Overall, we are moving toward a model of “community-centric giving” that is less transactional.

We want to reinforce the idea that people who pay for Cascade rides are choosing to support our mission of bringing people together to experience the joy of bicycling through transportation, recreation, and friendship. In other words, you aren’t just paying for the ride, snacks, mechanical support, and other services we provide at our events. 

Rather, you are choosing to pay for rides because you support our mission to expand access to bicycling.

Individuals who face difficulty affording our events at the lowest suggested amount can request a scholarship here. 

Cascade would also like to recognize Amy Korver for pushing to implement equity-based sliding scale pricing. Korver is departing Cascade for new adventures following a five-and-a-half year work stint at Cascade. We will miss Amy dearly, but her legacy remains.

Amy Korver on the trail
Happy trails, Amy!


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