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Three advocacy groups considering merger

Published February 22, 2012

SAN DIEGO, CA (BRAIN) Feb 22, 14:40 MT—Three of the U.S.'s most powerful bicycle advocacy groups are considering merging their organizations.

Representatives from the Alliance for Biking & Walking, the League of American Bicyclists and Bikes Belong met in San Diego earlier this month and agreed to recommend the three organizations merge. In a joint statement released Wednesday, the representatives proposed completing a merger by next January. The merger still has to be ratified by the boards of directors of each organization.

A single group could "more effectively support and advance bicycling in the United States," the statement said.

"The goal is to speed progress in creating a bicycle-friendly America, where bicycling is a viable transportation- and recreation choice for everyone and more people bike more often. This proposed unification would combine the significant resources of the three groups into one effective, powerful organization with a clear, integrated structure and a single voice."

The group agreed on an acting board of directors for the new organization, and an acting CEO — Tim Blumenthal, who is currently the president of Bikes Belong. No name is being publicly proposed for the new organization, so far. The group proposed September as the deadline for a yes-or-no decision on the merger.

Blumenthal told BRAIN Wednesday that there is an enormous amount of overlap of each organizations' missions.

"Just about everything" overlaps, Blumenthal said.

"Congressional relations, creating a bike-friendly America and mobilizing American cyclists to stand up and be counted," are all duplicate functions, he said.

The groups have little overlap in membership, however. Bikes Belong's members are suppliers and retailers, the League's members are individuals and the Alliance's members are local and state bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations.

There is more overlap when it comes to funding sources, as several bike suppliers write checks to several of the organizations.

Blumenthal estimated that the three organizations have a combined annual budget of close to $10 million. He said a merged group would represent roughly a million constituents and be a more attractive organization for non-cycling corporations looking to bask in cycling's active lifestyle glow.

The recent fight in Washington over the federal transportation bill highlighted the need for a combined group. In fact the three organizations, along with IMBA, Adventure Cycling and the Association for Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals worked together on America Bikes, a coalition formed to focus on federal bike funding. Bikes Belong is the primary funder of America Bikes.

The acting board of directors for the proposed group contains board members from each of the three current groups: Trek Bicycle's John Burke, Noah Budnick of Transportation Alternatives, Chris Fortune of Saris Cycling Group, Leah Shahum of San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Gail Spann of the League of American Bicyclists and Hans Van Naerssen of the League of American Bicyclists.

Blumenthal said it's too early to say where the new organization would be headquartered except that it would "need to have a strong DC office." The League and the Alliance are each based near Washington. Bikes Belong is based in Boulder, Colorado.

Steve Frothingham

Topics associated with this article: Advocacy/Non-profits

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