|any industry leaders including Trek, Fuji, and Shimano indicated that they would be stepping up their advocacy efforts. Trek in particular launched their 1 World 2 Wheels effort to actively promote bicycling as a lifestyle. Fuji launched Bike Emory in an effort to bring more bikes to a college campus. These programs are designed to highlight bicycling as a lifestyle as well as a healthy and sustainable mode of transportation. Advocates were wondering if industry was going to help to directly support local, regional, and statewide efforts the way that Planet Bike had been doing for years.
Since 1996, Planet Bike has given nearly $650,000 to help advance bicycle advocacy, with the majority of this funding allocated to the Thunderhead Alliance for Bicycling and Walking. Planet Bike’s formula for giving back to the biking community is simple: 25% of all of their profits go to advocacy. Their goal is to give $1,000,000 to bicycle advocates by the end of 2010, and these guys are the real deal. Planet Bike president Bob Downs talks freely about their funding strategy, hoping that others will follow their lead and reinvest in the advocates who are making the streets safer and more accessible.
SRAM Steps Up
Late in January of 2009, SRAM announced that they had given $400,000 to the Thunderhead Alliance for Bicycling and Walking and the League of American Bicyclists to help boost their local advocacy efforts. If this seems like a newsworthy chunk of change, SRAM’s foundation website indicates that they plan to give away $10,000,000 over five years. Since the fund’s inception in September of 2008, SRAM has already given $1,400,000. For bike advocates, this is a staggering amount of money coming from industry.
To date, funds have been distributed as follows:
Safe Routes to School National Partnership – $200,000 in December of 2008 to be used to help support the network of 350 non-profit organizations, government agencies, schools, and professionals all around the country. This first grant will focus on improving bicycling infrastructure.
I.M.B.A. – $200,000 in December of 2008 to be used for building capacity within the organization, adding staff on a regional basis in order to help build and grow local clubs, and building a new grassroots fundraising program.
Bikes Belong – $200,000 in January of 2009 to be used to lobby for inclusion of large-scale bicycle projects and funding within the Federal Stimulus Bill, upcoming Federal Transportation Bill, and future climate change legislation.
Thunderhead Alliance for Bicycling and Walking and the League of American Bicyclists – $400,000 each in January of 2009 to be used to build and grow local, regional, and state grassroots bicycle advocacy organizations.
SRAM will not limit their contributions to just the US. The SRAM Cycling Fund website indicates that their scope is worldwide, with the US receiving 60% of the funding, Europe 20%, Taiwan 5%, and the remaining 15% remaining uncommitted. According to SRAM, the US is targeting to receive the majority of the funding, as “bicycling infrastructure lags behind the rest of the world.”
A Perfect Storm in the Making
Have we really reached a tipping point in the way that bicycle advocates and the industry work together? I’d like to think so. People will cite many things that could have contributed to this remarkable shift in the way that the bike industry works with advocates: the warming climate, the changing administration, the economic crisis, the national health concerns related to obesity, the massing numbers of advocates who are clamoring for funding, the advocates who now work in industry… the list goes on. Whatever the reason, I’m thankful that it’s finally happening.
Thank you, Planet Bike for leading the way. Thank you, Bikes Belong for helping to build the local infrastructure. Thank you I.M.B.A., for your political savvy and incredible network of local clubs and advocates. Thank you, Thunderhead for helping to build and grow our hundreds of grassroots organizations. Thank you, League of American Bicycles for the National Bike Summit and over 120 years of leadership. Thank you, National Safe Routes to School Partnership for changing the way that our children get to school and remain active. Thank you, SRAM for helping pull us all together.
I look forward to the day when there is no “one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi” after telling people what I do for a living, and that funding for world-class bicycle facilities—from any source, including private, industry, or government—is as commonplace as the frustrated commuters that sit on our congested highways instead of riding their beautiful bicycle.