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Bikes Belong hopes all-star team can bring biking mainstream

Posted by on April 23rd, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Oregon Bike Summit-2
Bikes Belong Executive Director Tim
Blumenthal spoke at the Oregon Bike
Summit yesterday.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Bikes Belong Executive Director Tim Blumenthal shared a lot of inspiring news and information during his remarks at the end of the Oregon Bike Summit yesterday.

Blumenthal is a key figure in the national bike movement. He’s at the helm of arguably the most well-funded and well-positioned bike organization in the country and he deftly wears many hats including that of an advocate, a corporate fundraiser, a marketing expert, and a smooth political operator.

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During his talk, Blumenthal shared Bike Belong’s current role in the bike movement and he offered a compelling, big-picture view about the unprecedented momentum that exists for biking in America today.

“We’re trying to think big, and the more the more we can engage people outside the bike industry, the more successful we can be.”
– Tim Blumenthal, Bikes Belong

From the work being done in cities across Oregon, to the Amgen Tour of California; from the urban fixed gear culture all the way up to a President who not only listens, but who has pledged support for the bike agenda; Blumenthal paints a picture of bicycling that would stoke the fire of any bike advocate.

One of Blumenthal’s major tenets is that the movement must find partners outside bike industry. “We’re trying to think big,” he said, “and the more the more we can engage people outside the bike industry, the more successful we can be.”

The Numbers
  • 49% of trips are three miles or less
  • 39% of trips are two miles or less
  • 24% of trips are less than one mile
  • About 1% of trips are taken by bike
  • 80% are taken by single-occupancy cars
  • 250,000 people are estimated to be bike enthusiasts/supporters
  • 50 million ride at least once a year

During the Presidential election, Bikes Belong joined forces with Humana Corporation for a bike-share project at the Republican and Democratic conventions. That effort “exceeded expecations”, paying off in the form of major national media coverage and in getting leaders in host cities thinking about how to accomodate bikes in ways they’d never considered before.

Blumenthal also emphasized that Bikes Belong “wants to pay special attention to short trips.” He shared his “49/39/24″ formula. 49 is the percentage of trips taken in the U.S. that are three miles or less, 39% are two miles or less, and 24% are less than one mile. However, of all the trips taken, Blumenthal said “barely one percent are taken by bike and almost 80% are taken by a single occupancy car.”

Blumenthal is also big on the need for more research. He told us yesterday that he’s guilty, like many advocates, of believing in bicycling so much that, “sometimes we forget we have to make a strong and effective case, and we have to back it up with research.”

Jennifer Dill from PSU-1.jpg
PSU bike researcher Jennifer Dill.

To that end, Blumenthal announced that he is holding an invite-only, bicycle research summit at Bikes Belong headquarters in Colorado next week. Blumenthal said he will fly all the top bike researchers from across the country to get together and find out, “What they’re working on; what they wish they were working on; what we need; and how to get it.”

Researchers that plan to attend the meeting include Portland State University’s Jennifer Dill, University of Oregon professor Marc Schlossberg, noted speaker and researcher John Pucher from Rutgers, and bike-related researchers from Harvard, the University of North Carolina, and others.

The big news Blumenthal shared with the crowd was a new “consumer outreach campaign” that Bikes Belong plans to launch soon. Blumenthal said he estimates that there are currently 250,000 people who would identify as being bike advocates and supporters in the U.S., yet surveys have shown that there are 50 million Americans who ride a bike at least once a year.

“That’s a pretty big gap,” says Blumenthal, and he’s got a plan to close it. Bikes Belong has hired global ad firm Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Crispin Porter — whose current clients read like a who’s-who of the world’s largest corporations — will create an ad campaign aimed at getting more Americans to sign up and support the bike movement.

To seal the deal, Blumenthal has hired online marketing specialists Blue State Digital. Blue State Digital specializes in raising awareness and funds for a number of causes. Their most recent, high-profile success was getting a guy named Barack Obama into the White House. Blue State Digital, the company that managed all of Obama’s online marketing, fundraising and campaign strategy, will soon be putting those same skills towards rallying for a more bike-friendly America.

Blumenthal says they’ll spend about $300,000 to start the campaign. “That should be a good start,” he said, “we’ll see how it goes and I’ll report back.”

Bikes Belong’s efforts couldn’t come at a better time. In the coming months, Congress will be crafting a new transportation bill and our elected officials will need to hear from as many bike-believers as possible.


– This is part of our special coverage of the 2009 Oregon Bike Summit. View more coverage here and see our latest photos in the official photo gallery.

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Comments
  • Bob April 23, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    The Bike Me! Vancouver meeting held yesterday had a strong showing of bike adocates and cyclists in Vancouver. Addtionally, Vancouver Councilman and Mayor Candidate Tim Leavitt attended the entire meeting to hear the concerns and goals of the bike community. VANCOUVER IS EMERGING FROM ITS SUV LOVING SHELL!!! Kudos to those who put on the meeting. Just think, if Vancouver can become bike friendly, what can Portland do?

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  • Paul Tay April 23, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Yo, Tim, which state is your motor vehicle registered at? Dude, gotta bike the ride, before ya talk da talk.

    Tulsa City Council is ALWAYS on the lookout to bust me driving an air-polluting monstrosity of glass, metal, and rubber to their meetings to talk bikes.

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  • Joy Seaten April 23, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Hey! I think its cool that the entire area is starting to really consider bikes as a long term transportation solution. I don’t think a person needs to bike to support cyclists–thats kind of like saying you have to be jewish to be against antisemetism.
    The bike world really needs to stop being pretentious and start working to welcome new bike riders and gather all the support it can find.

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  • metal cowboy April 23, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    The message that the bike community/advocates need to reach out and engage folks beyond the bike industry is a powerful/timely one. I’ve been doing performances, book signings and programs for ten years – it’s a blast to play a crowd from a bike club, interbike, bike and ped conferences/ industry, but it’s very very satisfying to see folks who haven’t been on a bike for years make the connection between the bicycle and health, financial savings and plain old fun.

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  • ScottG April 24, 2009 at 12:21 am

    This article piqued my interest in Bikes Belong, and I’d like to donate a small amount to their PAC. However, their donation restrictions sound confusing. Can anyone tell me how I can donate as an individual who is not an employee of any of their business members?

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  • Paul Tay April 24, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Joy, #3, you are certainly right. But, biking the ride, before talkin’ da talk, certainly helps with the sincerity? Naaaaaaaaaaah.

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  • Paul Tay April 24, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Joy, #3, you are certainly right. I am a devout Buddhist Jew and thinks Muslim extremism has its place in mainstream political discourse.

    But, biking the ride, before talkin’ da talk, might help your sincerity to the cause? Naaaaaaaaaaah.

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  • pedalstrikeforceagentdown April 24, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Maybe if the 49/39/24 formula doesn’t work out for increasing bike use, it might could just be just the gear ratio I need for my touring triple chainset.

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  • pedalstrikeforceagentdown April 24, 2009 at 9:20 am

    scuse me, crankset.

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  • [...] bike on four different occasions. Nearly every trip was under three miles round trip. As reported at BikePortland.org yesterday, 49 percent of trips (taken by Americans) are less than three miles, yet barely one percent of said [...]

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  • TimB April 24, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    ScottG asked about donating to BikesPAC. Anyone can write a check to support BikesPAC, but…

    1. We can’t solicit contributions from individuals who aren’t connected with Bikes Belong member companies, especially at special fundraising events like the ones we host at Interbike and the National Bike Summit.

    2. Contributions aren’t tax-deductible.

    3. If you donate $200 or more, we need to make every effort to collect your home address and contact information (to comply with Federal Election Committee rules).

    BikesPAC’s address is P.O. Box 2359, Boulder, CO 80306.

    Thanks.

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  • duncansadat April 24, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Yo Paul Tay,

    What’s your deal? If you are trying to fault Tim B. for driving an SUV, tell us where you get that information.

    I, for one, agree with you–but these comments come from left field, man. You just gotta contextualize them.

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  • TimB April 24, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Hi Paul,

    I commute by bike just about every day–probably 95 percent of the days I’m in the office.

    I don’t own an SUV.

    I do own an ’82 biodiesel Mercedes 240D. Ninety percent of the miles I drive–about 3,000 per year–are to the airport and back. I would like to drive (and fly) less.

    I wanted to take the Amtrak from Portland to Salem. My understanding is that the schedule is pretty limited.

    Last thing: the Oregon Bike Summit seemed pretty awesome to me–a really well-organized, meaningful event that will provide long-term benefits to bicycling statewide.

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  • BURR April 24, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Yeah, Tim looks so *sincere* up there on the podium. I know we’ve got it much better in Portland than much of the rest of the country, but plz try not to kill me with the PC attitude!

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  • Paul Tay April 25, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    BURR, better one of us pulling the PC ‘tude here, in private, than some other wiseguy like Boehner pulling the PC ‘tude on national TV, right? Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

    I get hit with it all the time. And, if I couldn’t take it, I wouldn’t dish it.

    Tim, schedule a really kewl B-B ride on shift.

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  • Paul Tay April 25, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Ok, now that I’ve read the B-B poop-sheet, and Tim vetted, here’s my wishlist:

    1) Legislative support at the state level for more bike-friendly state laws, especially states with no organized statewide advocacy group, i.e. Oklahoma;

    2) PAC-style funding for said effort;

    3) Stay away from talkin’ bike lanes and talk MUTCD standard for NARROW outside lanes that encourage motorists to obey the three-foot passing laws;

    4) Lobby for federal funding of encouragement programs, not engineering. The “bike” lanes are already built. We need pork for high-dollar TV and web ads.

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  • BURR April 26, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    we need more motorist education on how to safely share the road with cyclists; not more bike lanes, cycle tracks and other segregated cyclist ghettos.

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  • Paul Tay April 27, 2009 at 7:59 am

    BURR, ditto. Pork 4 Propaganda!

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  • [...] campaign has been in the works since November 2008 (we last reported about it in April 2009). Bikes Belong created the campaign with Minneapolis-based creative agency Colle+McVoy. The firm [...]

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