Trek president says industry should take greater role in bicycle advocacy

“In my view, the industry's greatest opportunity is to create a bicycle friendly world.”

That was Trek president John Burke's message to industry leaders at the bicycle trade show in Taiwan last weekend.

Burke says that people are beginning to figure out that the bicycle is the simple solution to many of the world's greatest problems — air pollution, obesity, urbanization and traffic congestion.

Bike Biz editor Carlton Reid shot a video of Burke's talk before the bike industry's so-called A-team meeting in Taipei last weekend. It's 23 minutes on YouTube worth watching to boost your bike advocacy juices.

Al Gore of bicycling?

This is essentially the same speech that Burke gave at the National Bike Summit in Washington DC recently. Jonathan Maus at BikePortland covered the event, and dubbed Burke the Al Gore of the bike trade, in reference to “An Inconvenient Truth.”

What are some inconvenient truths raised by Burke? Increased air pollution caused by growing car use; increased obesity caused by a sedentary lifestyle; billions of hours worldwide wasted in congested traffic; more people living in bigger cities.

“We have the perfect product at the perfect time” to deal with those problems, Burke says. He notes that helping the world solve those problems also is good for the bike industry.

“The number one way to grow the bicycle business is by creating a bicycle friendly world,” he says.

Advocacy pays off

Instead of spending so much money on marketing and product development, Burke says the industry can get dividends by advocating for more bicycle facilities.

He noted that the feds spent about $20 million toward bike trails in 1995. Soon thereafter, the bike industry started spending an estimated $2 million a year toward lobbying. Now, Burke says, the feds allocated $800 million for bicycle facilities.

Louisville case

Burke also cited the case of Louisville, Kentucky, where Mayor Jerry Abramson got interested in bicycling as a way to solve traffic congestion. Burke says that Louisville has built a bike path through the city and another one is being built around the city.

Between 2001 and last year, bike boardings on buses rose from 9,000 a year to 91,000 a year.

“There's a basic premise for the bicycle business, if you build the facilities and you build the trails, people will use them,” Burke said.

In the Netherlands, Burke notes, 30% of all trips are taken by bicycle, while in the US that percentage is about 1/2 of 1%. Meanwhile, 50% of all car trips in the US are less than 2 miles.

That sounds like a great opportunity for the bike industry.


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