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BPSA members approve merger with PeopleForBikes Coalition

Published April 25, 2019

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — The final hurdle has been crossed — a majority of the members of the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association have voted to approve their organization's merger with PeopleForBikes.

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The respective boards of the two organizations approved the merger earlier this month, but BPSA bylaws required a majority of members to approve, as well. Voting began at the Bicycle Leadership Conference and continued with online voting. On Thursday, the BPSA said "a clear majority" of its 91 members had voted in favor. 

The merger will become official July 1, the end of BPSA's current fiscal year. Both boards will convene in Boulder on June 17 to finalize transition plans.

"Now the exciting and challenging work of integration begins," said the BPSA's outgoing president, Adam Micklin. "What a great opportunity to strengthen our industry. We appreciate all the support from our membership and board that's made this merger possible."

Tim Blumenthal, the president of PeopleForBikes, said "This merger will help the bike business by building a more powerful united voice for our multifaceted industry. Our professional staff will complement the time-tested work of BPSA leaders in government relations, safety, research and promotion and other key areas. We can't wait to get going."

Need for speed

In interviews with BRAIN last week, Micklin and Blumenthal said a changing bike industry demanded the merger. The BPSA dates to 1912 and its founders likely never dreamed of e-bikes, a shrinking market partly due to digital diversions, or, we feel certain, a Trump-driven trade war.

But those realities and others have challenged the industry and its supplier trade group in recent years. The need to respond — quickly — contributed to the BPSA's decision to merge with the younger, but larger, PeopleForBikes.

"We need to go faster," said Micklin. "Our goal is to not only grow cycling but to effect change in our industry at a much faster rate than having separate organizations allows."

BPSA relies on volunteers for much of its work — Micklin, for example, has a day job as Felt Bicycle's vice president of global sales & marketing.

The organization has a budget of about $750,000 and one part-time employee, executive director Ray Keener.

In contrast, PeopleForBikes, founded in 1999 as Bikes Belong, had revenues last year of over $6 million (including its Coalition and Foundation funding) and has a burgeoning professional staff in Boulder.

Especially since PeopleForBikes hired Jenn Dice and launched its Business Network about five years ago, the groups have increasingly worked together, noted Blumenthal.

"Jenn pushed us to become more business oriented and the whole team started to develop some business chops. Those skills meshed really well with what the BPSA was trying to do with e-bikes and tariffs and other stuff. Suddenly we had a staff full of full-time professionals and you could say that's what really led to the merger."

The BPSA often contracts with PeopleForBikes to provide staff support on some projects; Micklin said the organization pays PeopleForBikes about $150,000 a year for contract work.

On legislative issues in particular, working together provides a one-two punch. Although largely supported by industry suppliers, PeopleForBikes boasts a list of more than 1.35 million cyclists who have pledged their support for bicycling. Meanwhile the BPSA represents an industry with $6 billion in annual sales and an estimated economic impact of $88 billion a year.

"Anything that relates back to business and money seems to be a trigger for federal, state, and local government to pay attention," Micklin said. "Combining the forces of riders and businesses is proving to be one of our most powerful tools."

Nuts and bolts — and dues

The merger has been in the works for about 18 months. BPSA board members wanted to ensure its projects and committees will continue: that includes a statistical program, bicycle owner's manual, e-bike committee, and more.

The other issue was dues. After the merger, companies will have to cut just one check to join the newly merged organization, but it won't be smaller.

The proposal is for all companies in the merger's first year to continue paying the same amount. Those that were members of both groups would pay the same total dues. If they were only a member of BPSA, they would pay the BPSA dues to the merged group. Contributors to BPSA's e-bike committee will see those dues rolled into the single bill, as well.

In the second year, PeopleForBikes dues, currently 0.1 percent of bike-related revenues, would increase to 0.12 percent. The plan will have to be approved by the merged group's board this December

A handful of companies are members of BPSA but not PeopleForBikes, and they will be asked to pay significantly more starting in 2020.

Blumenthal said it's possible a few companies will opt out, but he said he expects an increase in members.

"There's no way it will be a net loss; we will end up with more members," Blumenthal said. "Our task is to introduce these companies to our work (during the transition year) and as they become familiar with what we do, they'll join. We'll have to make the case."

Micklin said losing financial and volunteer support from a few companies is "absolutely a concern." But he said the times call for all members of the industry to get involved.

"Now more than ever I would hope these companies and really all suppliers in the industry would recognize that everyone's got to jump in on this. There's no time to sit on the sidelines anymore."

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