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Top three US bicycle advocacy groups plan merger to better cyclists’ voice in Washington (Bikes Belong)

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.

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

“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.”

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.”

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