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.)

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Posted by Tim Jackson at 11:15 PM 2 comments

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sea Otter '07- What gives Eurobike?

Sea Otter finished up this past Sunday. As usual, there was crazy weather to contend with and all kinds of cool racing and bike nerdery going on. It was exactly what Sea Otter always has been and always will be.

The big difference this year is that Sea Otter teamed up with the fine folks from Eurobike (Messe-Friedrichshafen) to create what was being billed as the largest outdoor cycling festival and "tradeshow" in the US. In keeping with this incredible new relationship and enhancement of the event, exhibitor space rates went through the roof, as did race entry fees and other associated costs of providing a worldclass event/ exhibit.

Thing is... it wasn't any busier, it wasn't any better, it wasn't any different than years past (except for the increase in cost). Disclaimer- this was my first time attending the event, so these observations/ comparisons are based off of feedback I received from other exhibitors at the event. If this was supposed to be a premiere cycling event, in terms of being an exhibit/ festival/ tradeshow... it was a flop. As an actual race, it was superb as always. The racers and the people who come to hang out and gawk at the event, really make it what it is- a celebration of cycling (even if that celebration takes place in the rain and tornado-like winds).

I know that the race organizers and Eurobike had very little time to pull this together, after making their announcement of joining forces just a few months ago (the end of November). It would seem that once Eurobike realized their proposed "Eurobike-Portland" wasn't going to work and that they were receiving so much negative press, they simply decided to shrink their ambitions for a year and start off a little smaller. Well... can't say it worked. Many people doubted whether or not they would have enough time to create what they were claiming they would. It seems those folks were at least marginally correct. Don't get me wrong, I'd call the event a success, but it wasn't what it was billed to be and certainly didn't merit the incredible cost hikes.

Here's another point that may seem like I am just trying to pick a fight; where were the folks from either Sea Otter or Eurobike during the event? During the entire event, neither I nor Jill Hamilton (our Haro MTB Brand Manager and my partner in crime at Sea Otter) saw hide nor hair of anybody from the event. Many of us in the industry complain about costs and other issues associated with Interbike, but at least every year at Interbike I get a visit (or several) from somebody from the show organization thanking me for my business and checking in to see how things are going. It might seem like nothing, but it does make an impression- a little humanity goes a long way. Nobody disputes that the Eurobike shows are great. They are widely regarded as well run, well attended and well respected by exhibitors, retailers and consumer attendees. It's a strong brand with a lot of potential. When they announced they were coming to the US, many people thought it was a great thing- including myself (though I argued with the date).

It seems that Eurobike has made a series of strange steps all along the way and it really begs the question of whether or not they are serious about coming to the US or if they even understand the US market. The way they handled the announcement and then the disappearing act they did, were both missteps. Then that was followed up with an overall strangeness in how they dealt with Sea Otter, on down to the lack of any known follow-up with US exhibitors at the event. It just doesn't make them look like they know what they are doing or that they really have the desire to chase the US market. Was Sea Otter just a way to save face after all of the negative press they received over Eurobike-Portland? Nobody appears to know.

One other point that needs to be mentioned; kudos to the folks at Interbike! Not only did they handle the original announcement about Eurobike-Portland well, but they attended Sea Otter and met with exhibitors. I met with Rich Kelly and a few other folks from Interbike during Otter and they didn't even mention Interbike once. It really did feel like they were simply there to see things for themselves and to say hello to friends. Gripe all we want about Interbike, this little touch was not unnoticed by me and surely wasn't unnoticed by many other folks as well. Good job folks!

So, what's your take on this all? Exhibitors- Did anybody from Eurobike/ Sea Otter come talk to you? Did the event have more traffic than ever, to match the cost of attending? Am I making too much of nothing? Please share your thoughts...

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

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Posted by Tim Jackson at 7:56 PM 12 comments