By Adam Newman
Most of the coverage from Interbike each year is about new companies and new products, but it’s not all about the bling. There are seminars to help dealers improve their business, appearances by industry VIPs (this year the keynote address was given by U.S. Representative and Congressional Bike Caucus founder Earl Blumenauer of Oregon) and, of course, representatives from cycling advocacy groups. Here are few of the advocacy organizations at the show that we looked into, and why you should too.
Adventure Cycling Association
The Association touts themselves as “America’s Bicycle Travel Experts.” Founded in 1974, their main focus is researching and publishing route maps for their more than 40,000 miles of bicycle routes. They also publish Adventure Cyclist magazine for its members and work with advocacy groups to promote bicycle touring. If you want to ride the best roads in the country, you can sign up for one of their guided self-supported or full supported tours. You can use their online forums to discuss past and future travels with fellow riders.
A partnership between the Alliance for Biking and Walking and the League of American Bicyclists, Advocacy Advance supports state and local bicycle advocacy efforts. Established in 2009, the program assists with targeted research and technical resources, implementing policies and awarding grants to support innovative campaigns. They also provide reports on funding, legislative and legal issues, that advocates can use to lobby lawmakers and policymakers.
Alliance for Biking and Walking
The Alliance is a coalition of more than 160 grassroots organizations nationwide that support cycling and pedestrian issues. It works to support state and local organizations through research, experience, training, resources, and grants. In September the Alliance awarded more than $100,000 in advocacy grants.
Bike Collective Network
A network of community bike shops and programs, the Network allows small entrepreneurs to share and find resources to help them grow. A free Wiki page includes a Bicycle Collective Starter Kit that walks you through the functional and legal steps to founding your own co-operative. It even includes a full shop manual for helping to answer difficult technical or mechanical questions.
Bikes Belong Foundation
Bikes Belong is a coalition of U.S. bicycle suppliers and retailers working together on common projects, including Safe Routes to School, Bicycling Design Best Practices and safety campaigns. The Safe Routes to School Program in particular is designed to address the plummeting ratio of children walking or riding to school. More than 6,000 schools have been helped since it’s inception in 2005 by building more sidewalks, pathways and bike lanes. Bikes Belong also hosts People For Bikes, a nationwide petition that is striving to gather one million signatures in support of cycling. They plan to use the collective voice of one million supporters to petition the U.S. government on behalf of cyclists everywhere.
International Mountain Bike Association
One of the largest bicycle advocacy organizations in the world, the IMBA has been working since 1988 to promote “low-impact riding, volunteer trailwork participation, cooperation among different trail user groups, grassroots advocacy and innovative trail management solutions.” They support joining not only their 35,000-member organization, but your local mountain bike club as well, so you can learn the particulars of your local trails’ needs and issues as well as support the grassroots nature of mountain biking.
An international bicycle advocacy NGO, some of One Street’s programs include executive coaching for organizational management concerns, emergency response for situations that threaten organizations and facilitation of campaign and organization workshops. One of their core initiatives is the Social Bike Business Program. It “helps local leaders establish their own local training centers where they can train and employ impoverished locals to design, manufacture and distribute affordable, quality transportation bicycles to people in need.” So far their are successful programs in Los Angeles, Budapest, Prague and Uganda.
Rails to Trails Conservancy
The Conservancy, naturally enough, is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating and supporting multi-use trails from abandoned rail lines. It currently supports 19,000 miles of rail trail, with 9,000 more miles in the planning stages. They recently partnered with Google Maps on their collection of trail maps, TrailLink. The site provides in-depth, interactive maps and directions for more than 30,000 miles of trails.