Monday, April 30, 2007

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.)

Labels: , ,

Posted by Tim Jackson at 11:15 PM

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous Wiley Davis posted at 3:11 PM  
    Tim,

    I have to agree with your statement that we need, "a more unified effort from the industry to promote cycling to the unwashed masses out of the mainstream cycling avenues."

    In fact, that's exactly why we're starting the Practical Pedal magazine. The goal is to produce a free publication aimed at people who bike for the environment, their health, and their communities.

    But we recognized early on that there are lots of people who are right on the edge of becoming bicycle commuters but who aren't at all into bike clubs/lycra/racing etc. These people don't join advocacy groups or even buy bike mags. But if they see a copy of Practical Pedal at the Whole Foods Market or at their local coffee shop, they'll probably pick it up. We figure that once you get them on a bike and transporting themselves that way, it's only a matter of time before they're joining the LAB and pushing their city gov for bike infrastructure.

    I'm not a bicycle-industry insider. I'm a magazine industry person who loves bikes. Perhaps we should talk. I'd love to hear your thoughts on our project. You can email me at wileydavis@practicalpedal.com.

    Cheers,

    W
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