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Burke Challenge: Give to Advocacy

Published January 22, 2008

SAN DIEGO, CA (BRAIN)—John Burke believes the industry can increase the number of trips taken by bike in the United States from less than 1 percent of trips to 5 percent of trips. But it’s not going to happen on its own.

“I believe it can happen in the U.S. if we go city by city,” Burke, Trek’s president, told the audience at the Bicycle Leadership Conference Sunday.

Burke said companies need to get involved with local advocacy groups and city governments.

He suggested looking at the best practices of other cities to make our own cities more bike friendly. In the Netherlands, 25 percent of trips are by bike. Bike sales in London have doubled since the city implemented $10 congestion fees—a concept many U.S cities are considering. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Burke said.

Burke said if we grew trips by bicycle in the United States from .5 percent to 5 percent, we could grow the industry from $6.2 billion to $31 billion. “If we put the effort in and ended up at 20 billion, I think people would be happy,” he said.

Burke said by his estimates the average bike company spends 3.9 percent of its budget on marketing, 1.6 percent on product development and .0015 percent on advocacy.

Trek has significantly increased the percentage it spends on advocacy as part of its 1 World 2 Wheels program, which taxes sales to support advocacy organizations.

“Take a look and see where you are spending your money. Then ask yourself, ‘Where should you be spending the money?’ From a historical perspective, there has never been a better time to throw the sheet out and see what are we doing to support advocacy,” Burke said.

—Megan Tompkins

Topics associated with this article: Advocacy/Non-profits

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