LAS VEGAS, NV (BRIAN)—As Bikes Belong celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, executive director Tim Blumenthal (pictured) takes heart that the industry has coalesced around its role as the leading advocacy voice.
Now, Bikes Belong is about to take on a much tougher goal: convincing many of America’s cyclists to embrace advocacy on at least a rudimentary level.
“We want to get more of the 50 million involved in supporting bicycling and supporting government funding for bike facilities,” Blumenthal said Wednesday. “Most Americans who ride bikes have no awareness who builds the facilities or where the money comes from.”
Sometime next spring, Bikes Belong plans to launch a mass marketing campaign. It will be the organization’s biggest undertaking in its history with an initial cost of about a quarter of a million dollars.
“This is about the power of numbers, and increasing the clout of our movement,” Blumenthal said.
Within the industry, at least, Bikes Belong has established its clout. From its contentious founding a decade ago, the group now boasts some 450 members, evenly divided between suppliers and retailers.
“All of the major players are deeply involved and deeply committed,” Blumenthal said. The industry has contributed more than $15 million over the 10 years to support Bikes Belong, and Blumenthal said the payoff—attracting federal funds for cycling infrastructure—has been enormous.
“The short story is, what was a couple hundred million dollars a year in federal funding for cycling this year is going to be close to 1.5 billion,” he said.
Part of that success is due to the group’s BikesPAC Political Action Committee, which donates to the campaign coffers of cycling-friendly politicians.
BikesPAC hosted a fundraiser on Tuesday night that raised more than $17,000, the most ever for the Interbike event. Blumenthal urged attendees to work towards broadening the industry’s base of support.
He cited a recent attempt on the floor of the U.S. Senate to remove all federal funding for “transportation enhancements”—which include bike projects. The amendment failed by a vote of 57 to 37, Blumenthal said, but the numbers were worrisome.
“Thirty-seven votes in favor of an amendment like that on the floor of Congress right now is unacceptable,” he told the audience. “What it points to is that we’ve got a ton more work to do. We’ve got a lot more work to do with Congress. We have a lot more work to do with mayors. We need to broaden our base of support.”
Still, Bikes Belong is no longer an unknown on Capitol Hill. In an interview the following morning, Blumenthal mentioned that he had already fielded calls from two members of Congress.
“We are a player. We are a mainstream respected force, and we weren’t 10 years ago,” he said. “That is essential to the future of bicycling.”