Cold Feet: Advocacy group merger called off

Published August 16, 2012

BOULDER, CO (BRAIN) Thursday August 16 2012 2:22 PM MT—The three largest U.S. bike advocacy groups have called off a proposed merger, saying it was just too difficult to meld together Bikes Belong, The League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Biking & Walking.

"We have different bylaws, different membership bases, different structures, different histories …," said Bikes Belong president Tim Blumenthal. Blumenthal also was acting president of the proposed combined organization.

"We're based in Colorado, the other two groups are based in DC. There are three separate boards of directors, three separate staff teams. Mergers of two groups are hard enough, and on the corporate side 80 percent ultimately fail. We were trying to merge three groups."

The groups announced the proposed merger in February and set a goal of completing it by early 2013. They had hoped to announce a firm agreement and plan for the merger next month. Instead, the groups sent out the same press releases under each group's logos, announcing the decision not to merge and stating clear goals for cycling that all three would work toward.

They agreed on three goals:

  • The nationwide percentage of trips made by bike will increase to 5 percent (from 1 percent in 2012), and the diversity of people on bikes will mirror the diversity of America
  • Traffic injuries and fatalities (in all modes) will decrease by 50 percent
  • Half of all Americans will have front-door access to a bicycling network that will take them to destinations within two miles exclusively on low-stress streets, lanes, and trails—protected from high-speed traffic.

Blumenthal said another major goal is for the three groups to work with state and local planners and politicians to influence how they implement the two-year federal transportation bill, MAP-21.

"The focus has changed from the federal legislation to shift to making sure states and cities and towns spend the money they've been given. That's where we will work together," he said.

Spokesman for the Alliance and the League were not immediately available Thursday to talk to BRAIN about what the decision will mean for their individual groups.

But Blumenthal said Bikes Belong will be re-examing its goals and narrowing its focus.

"Once it became clear the merger wasn't going to happen, our executive board and staff began a facilitated strategic planning process about what's next," he said.

"We are going to look to focus on three or four things where we can lead, where we can really move the needle, and we are going to reduce the number of projects that we either fund or spend staff time on," he said.

Steve Frothingham

Topics associated with this article: Advocacy/Non-profits

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