by Jonathon Harker
19 September 2012
CEO John Burke gives a rousing speech on the benefits of advocacy at Interbike Industry Breakfast
Interbike 2012 opening this morning in Las Vegas with its first ever Industry Breakfast, taking place at the Venetian Ballroom.
The first 500 attendees got a free breakfast and the chance to listen to some key speeches before Interbike got underway. The packed room saw extra seating brought in to accommodate attendees.
Opening the proceedings, Interbike MD Pat Hus called it the biggest Interbike yet.
Following short presentations from Bikes Belong and the US’ National Bike Dealers Association, Trek CEO John Burke took the stage.
Burke spoke of the growing network of bike paths and green lanes across America, picking out the likes of New York and Portland for a vastly improved network of cycle friendly paths and facilities.
Burke hammered home his point frequently: “This didn’t happen by accident.”
“Cities like Portland have been transformed and that’s because advocates and local bike shops came together to work for it to happen.
“If someone had told you ten years ago that New York City was going to be somewhere where cycling is welcome they would have called you nuts.
“If someone told you ten years ago that there would be dedicated bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, they’d have laughed at you.”
“It’s about people taking responsibility for their markets.”
Burke went on to praise the fact that local advocacy groups are gaining in numbers and other positive bicycle friendly news, but didn’t shirk from the fact that there is much to be done in the US.
The US has lost federal funding for cycling infrastructure in the last four months. Burke said: “We failed to sell our message to Congress.”
“The reality is we lost, and we lost big.”
Burke also raised the fact that industry participation in cycle advocacy is relatively low and, while it raised a laugh, he compared cycle advocacy with the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA has four million paid members in the US, compared with around 200k paid cycle group members in the US. The NRA has 28 lobbyists at Congress, while cycling has three. “We need to get our act together like the NRA.”
“We have the chance to do something great.”
The Trek boss closed by inviting all suppliers and distributors to become members of Bikes Belong and for greater engagement of the industry in advocacy.
Burke left the stage to a standing ovation from the 500-strong crowd.