Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 23rd, 2009 at 1:54 pm
Blumenthal spoke at the Oregon Bike
(Photos © J. Maus)
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.
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.”
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.”
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.