Top US bicycle advocacy groups plan merger

Leaders tout a united front and greater voice in Washington

One maybe the loneliest number, but for three of the most powerful bicycle advocacy groups in the US it could be the right number as they consider consolidation. Last month representatives from the Alliance for Biking & Walking, Bikes Belong, and the League of American Bicyclists met in San Diego to discuss the possibility of a merger.

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The key reasons for the groups to consolidate include: strength in membership numbers, reduced confusion over cycle advocacy issues, and presentation of a united message. “This is the whole reason that we’re doing this,” Jeffrey Miller, the president and CEO of the Alliance for Biking & Walking told BikeRadar. “We have three organizations with great leadership and each has been growing, but none of us sat down 30 years ago and said, ‘we need a dozen bicycle organizations.’”

Miller pledged that this new united front could “rock [the boat] and make things better as well,” and he noted that at present, each group is asking their respective supporters what they think they need to see. “What is the dream?” he asks.

One point that each group made clear is that questions won’t directly overlap much either, as the three groups each have a very different membership base. “This is very important to understand,” Tim Blumenthal, the acting CEO of Bikes Belong told BikeRadar. “The League has individual membership and a very large membership base, the Alliance has city and state bicycle and pedestrian advocacy groups, and Bikes Belong has manufacturers and retailers.”

This new group would provide a greater single voice, said Blumenthal. And it should noted that all three groups, along with IMBA, Adventure Cycling, and the Association for Pedestrian, and Bicycle Professionals have worked together before on America Bikes, a coalition that was formed to focus on federal bike funding.

Advocacy leaders say the merger will give greater clout in washington:
Matt Elmstedt/Creative Commons

Advocacy leaders say the merger will give greater clout in Washington

“This [merger] is important because with all these groups there has been confusion, specifically on Capitol Hill,” said Blumenthal. “Anyone who drops into bike advocacy is hit with a sea of acronyms.”

The merger of the three groups could help streamline efforts Elizabeth Kiker of the League of American Bicyclists told BikeRadar. “Yes, that’s the whole reason we are moving forward,” she said. “All three groups are doing well, but if we could harness all that power as one we could help cycling and cyclists that much more.”

She added this was more about growth than concerns over duplication of efforts.

Thus the yet unnamed group will suddenly speak for the multiple voices, thus there is some concern for some to go unheard, but in business there is a popular opinion that if everyone goes away just a little unhappy it must be a fair deal. While Kiker, Blumenthal, and Miller don’t think anyone will be truly unhappy, they do agree there are going to be issues to resolve.

Blumenthal also noted that while each group has done specific things very well, not everything each group does will, or could even continue. “Not absolutely everything the groups are doing will continue,” he said. “But we’re happy about it, and the reaction has been resoundingly positive and optimistic. We’re more hopeful than we could have imagined.”

“We haven’t picked a name,” added Blumenthal, said of the new organization. “Everyone has ideas, and there are so many elements to this. There are legal elements, board of director elements, member services and promises, contractual agreements with foundations and sponsors, all this will need compromise.”

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Miller also agrees, “There is a hope that by being part of one team that we’ll be cleaner, tighter, and better lubed machine — if you will.”