National Interscholastic Cycling Association.
(Photos © J. Maus)
One of today’s many excellent breakout sessions focused on youth cycling programs. When I popped my head in I saw a familiar face at the lectern. It was Gary Boulanger, former bike industry journalist, PR guy, and entrepreneur behind the now defunct bike brand Cycles Gaansari (and the eponymously named bike shop in Dayton, Ohio).
Boulanger is now the recently elected Board President of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). NICA is a new organization (they held their first board meeting just last month) working toward the ambitious goal of developing competitive high school mountain biking leagues from coast-to-coast by 2020. So far there are just three states with leagues — California (NorCal and SoCal), Colorado, and Washington. But, with an impressive list of big-time corporate sponsors (Specialized, SRAM, Trek among others) and partners, the future looks very bright.
During today’s session, Boulanger highlighted a program in Marin County, California. At Sir Francis Drake High School, the 60-student bike team is larger than the football team. Last Sunday, he added, nearly 500 students competed at a national competition. Last year, the SoCal League (from Southern California) boasted 16 teams. Boulanger said that league will have 20 teams this year and most teams have grown 30-50 percent over last year.
The Colorado league will start this fall and a league in Washington State has plans to kick off in 2011.
One big fan of NICA is bike industry icon Gary Fisher. Fisher was in the audience at the session today and I chatted with him about it afterwards. He’s excited not only about the positive aspects biking can bring to young people, but also about the economic potential this could have for the bike industry. “There are about 50,000 high schools in this country,” he said, “If we can get bike leagues going in a lot more them, it would really lift the industry.”
I wonder if there’s a way to tie this in with Earl Blumenauer’s Safe Routes to High Schools bill (H.R. 4021)? And Oregon, come on! We should be all over this!