The leadership of three bicycle advocacy groups announced Wednesday that they're recommending a unification plan “to more effectively support and advance bicycling in the United States.”
A final decision is expected by September. If the boards of directors of all three organizations ratify the plan, the new organization (no name has been proposed) would launch in 2013.
According to a joint statement:
“The goal is to speed progress in creating a bicycle‐friendly America, where bicycling is a viable transportation‐ and recreation choice for everyone and more people bike more often. This proposed unification would combine the significant resources of the three groups into one effective, powerful organization with a clear, integrated structure and a single voice.”
Leaders of the three organizations came up with the merger plan at a meeting in San Diego on Feb. 13-14.
In the final analysis, this might be a kind of “inside baseball” change that won't be evident to many of us bicyclists on the outside.
The three coordinate many operations now. All three are fighting the bicycle project funding cutbacks in the proposed transportation bills in Congress. Each rely on studies performed by the Alliance. The League's Bicycle Friendly Community award program is “generously supported” by Bikes Belong.
Early reaction from Jonathan Maus, editor/publisher of BikePortland.com:
“This consolidation makes a ton of sense. The current attacks on bicycling from Capitol Hill have made it crystal clear that we need a stronger voice with more power and resources behind it. …
“To get to the next level, we need the best and brightest (and deepest pockets) working together under one roof with one mission. With the coalition behind the Alliance, the wonky smarts and huge membership behind the League, and the polish and industry support of Bikes Belong, we've got all the pieces necessary to make it happen.”
Richard Masoner at Cyclelicious offered some pros and cons about the proposal at “Unified Bike Advocacy.”
So far, those involved in creating the new mega-group will be headed by acting CEO Tim Blumenthal of Bikes Belong. The acting board of directors includes:
Noah Budnick, Transportation Alternatives, New York, NY
John Burke, Trek Bicycle Corporation, Waterloo, WI
Chris Fortune, Saris Cycling Group, Madison, WI
Leah Shahum, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, San Francisco, CA
Gail Spann, League of American Bicyclists, Dallas, TX
Hans Van Naerssen, League of American Bicyclists, Wayne, PA
The joint statement asserts that any and all changes will be implemented “carefully and respectfully over time.”
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership, for instance, will continue to operate as it does now.
League of American Bicyclists
The granddaddy of the three is the League of American Bicyclists. The bike advocacy group with 25,000 members today was founded in 1880 as the League of American Wheelmen. Founded to fight for cyclists' rights, one of its first tasks was to support road paving. Now the group fights to get bicycle projects included in road construction legislation.
Bikes Belong, formed in 1999, is an industry group with about 400 members, comprising suppliers and retailers. They lobby Congress, issue community grants and run bicycle promotions.
Late last month, auto-maker Volkswagen penned a two-year deal with Bikes Belong, agreeing to donate vehicles and funding to 3 Bikes Belong advocacy initiatives: Peopleforbikes.org, Safe Routes to School national partnership and Bicycle Design Best Practices.
Alliance for Biking & Walking
The Alliance for Biking & Walking was formed as the Thunderhead Alliance in the late 1990s comprising 12 state and local advocacy groups. Now, the coalition has grown to some 135 advocacy groups.
The “walking” aspect was added in 2004 as a quarter of its member groups support the cause of pedestrians. At its website, the Alliance explains that: “While the new organization will have a bicycling focus, the key programs of the Alliance will continue to be available to walking organizations. Furthermore, we will partner even more closely with America Walks.