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Bikes Belong and Bicycle Council Merge
Bikes Belong and Bicycle Council MergeThe boards of directors of The Bicycle Council (TBC) and the Bikes Belong Coalition (Bikes Belong) announce the two organizations are merged today. The name of the combined organization is Bikes Belong Coalition. Rich Olken will continue as Executive Director.

Both TBC and Bikes Belong boards enthusiastically supported the merger, which has been in the works since the BREC/BPSA conference last January where the need for industry unity was a prevalent theme. The merger can be seen as another indication of growing momentum toward a large umbrella organization dedicated to selling more bicycles through facilities improvement, political activism, and broad-based promotion.

"The industry's leaders on the boards of Bikes Belong and The Bicycle Council put their heads together and concluded that the industry needs to be unified if it is going to get and stay healthy," said Bill Wilkinson, former Executive Director of the Bicycle Institute of America (the industry's promotion organization of the early 1990s). "This is a very big, smart move by the industry and bodes well for the future of bicycling."

Bikes Belong was conceived in 1996 to win reauthorization of federal transportation funding for bicycle projects. After victory in 1998, Bikes Belong became strictly industry led and funded with the sole mission of “putting more people on bikes more often through TEA-21.” Bikes Belong recently expanded its mission to include political activism and promotion to consumers.

The merger with The Bicycle Council, which has conducted consumer promotions since 1997, allows Bikes Belong to advance ongoing promotional efforts by TBC with over four years of momentum. The two organizations had several board members in common and both boards agree that a single organization will be more effective.

“This is an evolutionary step for our industry,” said Bikes Belong President Mike Greehan. “Especially with the decline in bicycle participation, it’s critical for companies within the industry to join Bikes Belong so we can continue and expand what TBC has started.”

The Bicycle Council’s mission was to “promote the activity of bicycling to consumers for the purpose of expanding the market for bicycle riders.” TBC’s promotions have taken the form of publicity campaigns, focusing primarily on the fun and fitness of cycling, which result in national media exposures designed to attract new participants.

“When the TBC was founded in 1997 to fill an existing void in promoting the activity of bicycling and our products to the general public, we had hoped that at some time in the future, promotion could again become part of a more comprehensive industry effort,” said Harry H. Manko, President of TBC. “With the expansion of Bikes Belong's mission, that opportunity has come. Bikes Belong Coalition is well on its way of becoming the industry umbrella we had all hoped for. I urge all TBC and other industry members to support Bikes Belong.”

Bikes Belong, which assumes the management of all TBC operations as of today, will continue TBC’s current programs including its publicity campaigns conducted by TBC’s News Media Outreach Office. Bikes Belong will initially fund consumer promotions at past TBC levels and will fund at higher levels as revenues from industry sources grow.

Additionally, as part of the merger, TBC board members Ken Segerberg of the NBDA and Jerry Berman of Dynacraft Company will join Bikes Belong Coalition’s board of directors. Bikes Belong directors include Mike Greehan of Interbike, Dan Alloway of Cannondale, Leslie Bohm of Catalyst, Scott Boyer of Answer, John Burke of Trek, Nicholas Freedman of Bicycling Magazine, Wisconsin retailer and LAB President Chris Kegel, Lisa Robinson of Sportworks, Ariadne Scott of Specialized, Patrick Seidler of Wilderness Trail Bikes, Kozo Shimano of Shimano, Larry Pizzi of Schwinn/GT, and Gary Sjoquist of Quality Bicycle Products. Harry H. Manko, President of TBC, is available to the Board in an advisory capacity.

“Bikes Belong Coalition is committed to continuing what TBC started – the promotion of cycling to consumers through retailer-based programs and the national media,” said Bikes Belong Vice President Gary Sjoquist. “Additionally, we’d like to develop strategic alliances with health, transit, and livable community organizations. We want to measurably change behaviors and position the bicycle as the recreational outlet of choice and a mode of transportation within our communities.”

Congressman James Oberstar, the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and friend of the industry, was pleased to hear of the merger.
“The bicycling community has had a growing influence on transportation policy nationwide, and it left a significant imprint on TEA-21 (Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century), the landmark public works legislation that was enacted in 1998. Because of the tireless efforts of organizations such as Bikes Belong and The Bicycle Council, cyclists nationwide now have better, safer places to ride,” Congressman Jim Oberstar said. “By joining forces, Bikes Belong and The Bicycle Council will be able to speak with one voice, which will only increase the bicycling industry's effectiveness and ability to positively affect public policy.”

“There’s very little every one in our industry agrees on, but this merger is one where I know of no naysayers," observes Leslie Bohm of Catalyst. “That’s largely due to the inclusiveness of this next generation Bikes Belong Coalition. We represent a full spectrum of suppliers, retailers, media, and affiliated industry members. This unanimity enables us to achieve great things for the industry. There’s no reason for an industry member to not be a part of Bikes Belong.”

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