Trek President tells why bicycle industry--and bicyclists--need to support bicycle advocacy

At the Taipei Cycle trade show, Trek president John Burke gave an inspiring talk about why the bicycle industry should divert cash from marketing and R&D; to help advocates and politicians create a 'bicycle friendly world':

Highlights of Burke's talk (summary--not exact quotes):

Major trends that make bicycling more attractive worldwide:

  • Health: The obesity problem is getting worse worldwide and experts that it is impossible to solve this problem just by spending more money
  • Congestion: The congestion problem is also getting worse and, again, no amount of money spent on building more, bigger, wider roads can solve that problem.
  • Environment: Emissions from cars far outweigh those from power plants--vehicles represent 60-70% of air pollution; 60% of emissions from cars happen in the first few miles as the pollution control devices warm up.
50% of all trips are less than 2 miles.

The bicycle is a simple solution to complicated problems.

The bicycling industry spends many millions on developing new products and on marketing. But the bicycle industry's greatest opportunity for growth is to create a bicycle-friendly world.

If U.S. bicycle mode share went from about the current 0.5% to 5%, the bicycle industry would grow from the current 6.2 billion dollar industry to a 32 billion dollar industry. 5% mode share is achievable--it is exceeded in many places in the U.S.

Louisville has changed from one of the most bicycle-unfriendly cities into a much more bicycle friendly city in the space of just a few years. Typical stat: bicycle boardings on buses went from 9,000 (2001) to 91,000 (2005). If Louisville can do it, just about any U.S. city can.

To bicycle industry & bicycle businesses: If you want to have a bicycle friendly community you have to go talk to lawmakers. Lawmakers will listen to you.

If there are no places to ride your mountain bike, you're not going to sell very many mountain bikes.

Before 1995 he figures the bicycle industry spent close to no money on advocacy. About 10 years ago the bicycling industry starting supporting bicycle advocates and working with government to create a more bicycle friendly country. In 1995 the federal government spent about $20 million building bicycle facilities. Today the government is spending almost $800 million/yr on bicycle facilities. The politicians and policy makers say, if the industry had never spent the $2 million the government would not be spending the $800 million now.

I believe that the industry needs to redirect dollars they are spending in different areas towards bicycle advocacy. For every $100 that a company makes, the company spends $3.90 on marketing, $1.60 on R&D;, and $0.10 on bicycle advocacy. I look at that and I just don't think it makes sense.