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John Burke, the CEO of the Trek Bicycle Corporation, believes the U.S. bike industry needs to increase its involvement with advocacy groups and youth-centric nonprofits in order to help the U.S. bike market thrive. Burke wrote a lengthy op/ed in today’s Bicycle Retailer and Industry News on the topics of leadership and advocacy, and called on companies to increase their financial support of advocacy groups such as PeopleForBikes, and nonprofits like the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA).
“The bike industry is more dependent on government support than just about any other industry,” Burke wrote. “Almost all riding takes place on public roads, in the public right of way, or on public land. Competition for these spaces is fierce, and bicycling is far from the biggest or most powerful voice in deciding what gets funded and prioritized. We’ve got to be united, active, strong and professional. It’s not going to happen by accident!”
Burke referenced a recent study from the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association that said that overall U.S. sales are flat for the past three years, and the sale of overall units is down 13 percent. Burke said that advocacy work to build trails, bike paths, and safe riding spaces can overcome the decline.
“Boulder, Colorado and Bloomington, Illinois have the same population and are relatively the same size but bike sales in Boulder are 8X because it is a better place to ride. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are similar sized markets, but the number of bikes sold in Pittsburgh is 4X that of Cincinnati because it is a better place to ride.”
Yet Burke also challenged the industry for its apparent low participation with advocacy groups, and referenced a metric that said 37 percent of bicycle industry companies pay their full dues to PeopleForBikes. Burke called this a “sad fact.”
“Let me be clear, those who say that they are contributing in other ways are pulling the wool over your eyes,” he wrote.
Burke then outlined ways in which bike companies can hold themselves accountable for contributing to advocacy efforts.
1. Is your CEO actively involved in creating a more pro-bike America?
2. Would a group of leading local and national advocacy leaders say that your company supports their efforts?
3. Does your company take responsibility for helping to make your local city and state a pro-bike community?
4. Is your company a dues-paying member of PeopleForBikes?