Category: National Bike Summit

Follow-up to my DC follow-up; a word from Bikes Belong

I have a bit of follow-up dialog to my previous post about my trip to DC and my call to advocacy in the cycling industry.

I recently had a great conversation with Scott Bowen from Bikes Belong, regarding their role in bicycle advocacy for the cycling industry. We spoke face to face during the Sea Otter race and then followed up with some emails as well. Since you folks don’t get to read my emails on a daily basis, I thought I’d share the great conversation we had (with Scott’s approval of course).

Here is the conversation, in chronological order…

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Hey Tim,

It was good to see you in Monterey and thanks for the great NBS feedback. I will make sure your points get passed along to the League.

When we talked, I mentioned that someone forwarded me your blog. Again, it is supper motivating and I’m grateful that you took the time to make such a convincing argument. Without a doubt, those who read it will be moved.

There was a comment at the end about Bikes Belong that I wanted to ask you about. You said, “the industry needs to work closely together and form a coalition or trade group that lobbies for change as well”. I’m a little embarrassed because it’s my job to communicate our mission and our accomplishments, and what you said we need is precisely what Bikes Belong is. We are a coalition of bicycle manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers devoted to getting more people on bikes more often. What you participated in (federal lobbying) is only part of what we do. Our work can be broken down into four main components:

  • Federal policy and funding (how we got the $4.5 billion for bicycle infrastructure)
  • National leadership (Safe Routes to School National Partnership, Bicycle Friendly Communities, the National Complete Streets Coalition, and key strategic partnerships with groups like Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, AARP, and the PTA)
  • A $1.2 million community grants program that helps build new bike paths, lanes, and trails across the nation and leverages the federal money we secured
  • Promotion – sharing the great benefits of bicycling for health and fitness, recreation, community, environment, and so much more with national media like CNBC, The USA Today, and countless others


There is so much more, but that’s it in a nutshell. Take a look at our 2006 Annual Report and our 2007 Plan to see more (they’re both attached) {removed- Ed}. With so many good things happening at Bikes Belong, sometimes we don’t get it all out.

Maybe I misunderstood, but either way, I’ll take the chance to share some of our goods 🙂

See you soon,

Scott Bowen
Membership Development Director
Bikes Belong Coalition

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Scott,

Dude, it was great talking with you and I look forward to doing it again. I really appreciate you taking the time to put this all together and share with me- sincerely. In fact, I’d like, with your permission of course, to run this as an update to my post. I think many people lose sight of what Bikes Belong is all about and the work you folks do.

To my point though, more specifically, my thoughts were aimed at a more unified effort from the industry to promote cycling to the unwashed masses out of the mainstream cycling avenues. I think a group built out of manufacturers trying to get more folks to see cycling as a cool thing to do, is something we need more of. If it duplicates some of Bikes Belong’s efforts, then that is ok. It just seems to me that we need to see more non-endemic promotion of cycling in publications like Time, Men’s Health, Good Housekeeping, etc. Something that is less associated with the phenomenal lobbying efforts that Bikes Belong does and more geared to gaining new consumers. I think if it comes from the people who make the goods in cycling, it might help. Again, this may fall right in to the work already being done by Bikes Belong, but think of how cool it would be to see “Cycling is Cool” ads in major magazines. With the combined monies of several manufacturers, it might be possible to pull off.

Let me know your thoughts and if you wouldn’t mind if I posted your comments on the blog.

It was great to see you and thanks again for sharing all of this information with me.
Tim Jackson
Masi Brand Manager

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Tim,

This feedback is so great and I’m really grateful. Advocacy typically comes second to business priorities. We need to reframe advocacy as a business priority. But whatever the circumstances are, honest and open feedback on what the industry should be using its collective strength to accomplish can be hard to come by.

And man, we have a lot to talk about. But I’ll try to be brief and we can talk more the next time we see each other.

Before we could do anything as an industry and use our theoretical leverage, we had to unify. Since it’s creation seven years ago, Bikes Belong has found more success bringing the industry together than any other group. That was step 1.

Once we had that collective strength, the board prioritized and went after the “low hanging fruit”. That would be federal funding. Bicycling has so many advantages that resonate with our nation. We invested, we fought, and we won. Step 2.

We have developed major national partners (Robert Wood Johnson, AARP, PTA, etc.) to reach new audiences and find new revenue sources. Step 3.

The grants were designed to give back to communities, to support creative and effective local efforts, and to leverage and focus the federal funds we secured. Step 4.

Alright, now to your point – promotion. Bikes Belong is tasked by the industry to promote bicycling. The attached booklet {removed- Ed} was created to do just that to diverse, non-bicycling audiences. We have distributed over 25,000 copies and been an important tool. But our board has been pushing us for the “Got Milk” campaign for the bike industry. Late last year, we started working with Crispin Porter + Bogusky (VW, Miller Light, Burger King). They created over a hundred creative boards for us.

We have to be realistic with national promotion. As a $6 billion industry, we are not the dairy industry or the RV industry, but no one can deny we have enormous potential!

We have to keep all these balls in the air to be effective. Most importantly, we have to keep the industry united and focused. You and Jill taking the time to come to DC, keeping Haro informed, that’s what we need. We are grateful. Your blog rocks and we appreciate your comments. I think we (the industry) are headed in the right direction.

Sorry, this is way to long.

See ya soon,

Scott

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Scott,

Again, my friend, thank you for this great information. I am going to take your two emails and combine that information into one post. I think your comments are great and really do a great job on spotlighting efforts… and they educated me to what has been getting done.

I really believe in the work of Bikes Belong and am looking forward to Haro being involved again. I am also hoping to be able to stand in DC again next year and the years following. I think the work is that important. I am also trying to find ways to get involved locally- that’s a direct byproduct of being in DC.

Thank you Scott- I look forward to getting together and talking again soon.

Tim

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Hey Tim,

One of advocacy’s problems is that we can be long-winded 🙂

I’m working on it, but it’s a lot to talk about.

Thanks a ton,

sb

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And that is the entire conversation folks (minus the attachments).

This does, in my mind, go a long way towards helping to educate me and probably others in the industry to exactly what it is that Bikes Belong does on our behalves. It’s pretty cool, really.

Thank you Scott for your excellent feedback and for allowing me to use this information this way. I think it is great for people to see the very, very human side of Bikes Belong.

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser
(PS- Sorry for the weird formatting issues… the cut-and-paste process gets weird with emails.)

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DC follow up and a call to the Cycling Industry; (UPDATED)

As I mentioned about a week ago, I recently attended the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC with my Haro-family coworker Jill Hamilton.


Jill and I attended this very important lobbying junket as guests of Bikes Belong, the fine folks who work tirelessly to make sure that the cycling industry gets a voice at the legislative table. Along with the League of American Bicyclists, these two organizations work to put together the National Bike Summit.

This year’s Summit drew around 450 attendees. People from all walks of the bicycle advocacy spectrum- industry, retailers, bike clubs, city, regional, state and national advocacy groups… you name it. Some were there to support Safe Routes to School, some were there to lobby for more trail access, others were there to get bicycle commuters the same sort of tax break/ incentives that other folks get for commuting by bus or carpool and then there were folks (like me) who were focused on the Complete Streets initiative. It was a very diverse group and all of us joined together for the greater good of cycling, in the broader sense. Altruistic as it sounds, it is the truth and I was very proud to be a part of it.


I don’t know how it is possible to go to DC and not feel inspired by the sight of our country’s legislative power in action. It was actually awe inspiring and this is coming from one of the least political people you’ll ever meet. I still came away from DC with a new sense of energy and desire to work towards greater cycling advocacy issues.

You will hear me talk more about advocacy here and at that other place where I talk my fool head off. Advocacy is going to become a bigger focus for me, so I hope you’ll put up with it. Here’s the thing; too few cycling industry companies participate in advocacy and only a handful of folks showed up to the Summit. John Burke from Trek was there, Chris Fortune from Saris Group was there, Ariadne Scott from Specialized was there (along with a couple other folks) and Don Palermini from Bell Sports was there. There were others who were there and I apologize for missing your names, those folks are the ones I remember off the top of my head. Needless to say, industry folks were outnumbered quite a bit by the other non-industry folks. The non-industry folks do a fantastic job of making our lives easier, but it is time that we- as a whole- stepped up and added more to the efforts. Since I know that I get quite a few industry folks reading this site, I am putting out the challenge and invitation to be a bigger and more vocal part of the advocacy process. I am going to keep asking for more folks to become involved and I will be working on local and regional things that I can help with as well.

Think of it very selfishly, all you industry wankers (which I am one of); without the efforts of bicycle advocates, we will one day be without an industry to work in. Without safe streets for folks to ride on, they will not ride. Without safe routes to school, kids won’t need bikes to get to school. Without trail access, our dirt-loving mountain bike friends will have nowhere to ride and no need for a new mountain bike. It’s a very simple equation really. We have to work together, putting aside petty brand squabbles, to help provide a future for our industry. Let’s face it, race geeks alone are not going to support an entire industry.

So here is my challenge and my invitation to my fellow members of the cycling industry; stand up and be heard! Lend your voice to the chorus. Contact your local Congressman or Senator and let them know the things that are important to you (and not just about cycling). Don’t just let “somebody else” do the work for you- roll up your sleeves and get a little dirt under your nails. Here’s one more immutable truth; when it comes to DC, money talks. If the industry stands united and says “we need this”, then we’re much more likely to see some results. Think a bicycle commuter tax break doesn’t apply to you? Think again… those commuters by a lot of product, from bikes, to tires, to fenders, to lights, to new helmets, etc. If they have a monetary incentive to ride their bikes, and not just the “think green” incentive, more folks will get out and ride. Add safer roads to ride on into the equation and that potential pool of money-spending commuters gets even bigger.

Please join me in trying to make a brighter future for our much beloved industry.

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

(Short UPDATE; I realize that the mandate for Bikes Belong is to lobby for the cycling industry and they do a great job. Tim Blumenthal, the Director of Bikes Belong, is the former Director of IMBA and has a history of getting things done. Things are getting done with Bikes Belong as well, but my point is that the industry needs to work closely together and form a coalition or trade group that lobbies for change as well. We need to be able to put aside differences and work closely to further protect our industry and its interests.)

Heading to the National Bike Summit.

This coming week, I will be in Washington DC attending the National Bike Summit, along with my coworker Jill Hamilton (the Haro MTB Brand Manager… and one time contributor here… who might come back… no pressure…). Jill and I will be attending the summit as “sponsored guests” of Bikes Belong, serving as representatives of the cycling industry. With no sense of false modesty or “build up”, I am extremely excited about this and very honored to be going. I, along with many, many other people (way more qualified for the task than I) will be going to help further the causes of bicycle advocacy in the US. If you’ve read my posts or comments here and elsewhere, you might already know how I feel about the need for greater cycling-friendly infrastructure in this country. The industry needs the infrastructure to survive, but cycling as a whole needs it as well.

Anyway, here’s the deal; you got something you want said to the folks in DC who hold the purse strings? Then let me know and I will do my best to carry your ideas all the way to the folks who might actually be able to do something about it. I promise nothing other than the fact that I will do my best to express your comments and/ or concerns. Most people know that I am pretty darned passionate about cycling and this industry. I’m pretty sure there will be more than one occasion when I get told politely to shut the hell up… as if I can. But I want to carry your ideas as well. Sorry for the short notice on this, since I leave first thing in the morning Tuesday, but get me your comments here or directly to my email (tjackson at masibikes dot com). I will be in DC until Friday, so you have a few days to get to me before I get to them.

I’m looking forward to raising my hand and my voice to try and improve the state of cycling in this country. I will have great company while I’m there too, so you are in good hands.

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser