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Volkswagen now major sponsor of Bikes Belong’s ‘People for Bikes’ campaign

Posted by on January 26th, 2012 at 10:18 am

(Image: BikePortland)

Bikes Belong just announced that Volkswagen will donate “significant funding” to support their ongoing People For Bikes campaign and other programs the organizations funds like like the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

“We are working with VW as part of its Think Blue initiative, which encompasses all of the company’s efforts to promote eco-friendly mobility and encourage environmentally conscious behavior. VW has a history of working to improve its sustainability. Its factory in Chattanooga is the only auto manufacturing plant in the world to be LEED Platinum Certified. The VW factory in Wolfsburg, Germany has 5,500 bikes for employees to use for transportation.”

VW president and CEO Jonathan Browning says they are pleased to partner with Bikes Belong in order to, “ensure that people of all ages can safely share the road, saving fuel and reducing pollution and traffic congestion.”

Bikes Belong says they’ve already signed up over 500,000 people on their People For Bikes petition that launched in March 2010 and VW’s help could allow them to reach their goal of 1 million people by the end of this year.

“Mainstream support like this is huge for bicycling in America,” says Bikes Belong.

It’s also interesting to note that earlier this month Bikes Belong hired their first ever full-time Director of Government Relations. That position is held by Ivette Rivera Hayes, who joined Bikes Belong after 20 years as the Executive Director of Legislative Affairs for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA).

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  • Spiffy January 26, 2012 at 11:17 am

    the last paragraph is the best… it’s nice to see people switch sides from cars to bikes…

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  • Neighbor Gregg January 26, 2012 at 11:39 am

    How many bicycles are available for employees in Chatanooga?

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  • SilkySlim January 26, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    I may be remembering wrong, but I believe VW had a promotion at one point for a “sporty/outdoorsy” car package that came with a roof rack AND A BIKE! Actually, I think there was option between a rack with bike mounts or a rack with kayak mounts (came with a kayak).

    I really think this happened, and am 80% sure it wasn’t a dream.

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    • canuck January 26, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      it was a VW/Trek partnership, based on VW’s sponsorship of the Trek mtb team

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      • dwainedibbly January 26, 2012 at 5:18 pm

        There was a Kona Ford Focus, as well.

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  • E.H. January 26, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Just a PR move. The whole auto industry is working to adapt its public image; while increasing shareholder returns. Basic business.

    Green is the new marketing.

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  • captainkarma January 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Like BP = fresh air & sunshine, flowers (not toxic pollutants, death and greed)

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  • dwainedibbly January 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    With public funds drying up, I hope we can see more of these partnerships (even though I usually take a cynical attitude when it comes to corporations).

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  • Hart Noecker January 26, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Agreed. They recognize their oncoming irrelevance and are trying to re-image their brand while still promoting unsustainable automobiles that incentivize McStripmall sprawl.

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    • 9watts January 27, 2012 at 7:37 am

      As someone who has long felt that VW offered some of the most fuel efficient cars available, and was therefore to be lauded, patronized, etc. I’m inclined to agree with Hart. VW is really good at selling cars, and their commitment to fuel economy (which is a far cry from what we need now: a phaseout of car-dom, which isn’t going to come from the car industry anymore than a phaseout of coal consumption is going to come from the electric utilities) is only skin deep.
      Crumbs for bikes, and a slick PR move that might even help them sell more cars.
      Never underestimate the middle class’s eagerness to swallow feel-good nostrums.

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      • Anon1q2w3e4r5t January 28, 2012 at 11:28 am

        I predict the phaseout of car-dom will happen and will happen sooner then most people think.

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  • Anon1q2w3e4r5t January 26, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    Sellouts, period. I will no longer support People for Bikes and their parent organization Bikes Belong. Next time your’re out on the streets riding your bike and you spot one of those old style VW buggies, try to bike as close as you can to it from behind and be happy to know that VW is on your side now.

    This may or may not be related, but it’s the first thing to pop into my head after reading this article. Over the years I’ve been thinking about how this world works, etc. One area that I’ve spent some time thinking about is non-profits. I began to realize that certain people run non-profits simply for job security and/or to take advantage of their position so they can “move up in the world” later on. That’s basically the gist of what I was thinking about, again may or may not be related.

    One more thing, if VW really wanted to show they care, then instead of donating a significant amount of money, all they need to do is significantly reduce the amount of cars they sell each year.

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    • Doug Smart January 27, 2012 at 10:25 am

      How about this point of view: If people want to buy cars and VW puts some cap on the number of cars they sell, people will just buy their cars from another company. But if VW sells cars that are safe and have better fuel economy than the industry average, then they have the potential to improve that average. At the same time as they contribute to People for Bikes they can increase awareness and maybe get fewer people to want to buy anybody’s cars.
      I too am suspicious of the trend of companies to greenwash their marketing. However, I’d rather find common ground than fall into completely polarized thinking.

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      • 9watts January 27, 2012 at 10:41 am

        Points well taken… but… none of this recognizes that the leadership on this issue is–as describe in the article–coming from a car company. That is a recipe for disaster under (at least my interpretation of) the current predicament we’re in. We need bold leadership on the need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels completely. Pursuing fuel economy improvements was a very engaging pastime in the last quarter of the 20th century; now it is a dangerous distraction from the real issues.

        If all the fossil fuels really need to remain in the ground, and the number of folks recognizing this is growing if slowly, then fuel economy improvements are the wrong tree to be barking up.

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      • Anon1q2w3e4r5t January 28, 2012 at 7:12 am

        So people buy cars from other companies and VW eventually goes out of business, perfect! One car company down, X more to go, that’s at least progress in my eyes. Having safe cars and better fuel economy is not going to make our streets safer, in addition, the myriad of other problems caused by cars is simply not going to disappear. Ultimately, the auto industry’s monopoly of our streets needs to end, this is one aspect that livable city advocates need to focus on in the future.

        Do you honestly think that VW would contribute to their own demise? They already did all the research and calculated all the numbers before showing how much they care for bicyclists. They know that their sponsorship isn’t going to adversely affect their business, it was just a PR move as another poster has already mentioned.

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    • beth h January 27, 2012 at 4:51 pm

      It’s no secret to many in the bicycle industry that Bikes Belong is a non-profit designed to glean advocacy dollars from said industry, and in the process secure salaries and some modicum of job security for its founders (at least one or two of whom used to work in — you guessed it — the bike industry).

      If Bikes Belong’s fundraising and its accompanying advocacy were more effective the organization would not need the help of an automobile manufacturer. This smells about as funky as the recent advertising efforts from Zipcar:


      Bikes Belong is just another Great Big Whatever in my book.

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      • Anon1q2w3e4r5t January 28, 2012 at 9:38 am

        Well that’s news to me, thank you very much Beth for your comment. I’ve always felt that there was something off with some of these bicycle advocacy groups. This article and your comment validates my suspicion that I’ve had for a while, now I’ve got a better idea of what I need to do moving forward. Off the top of your head, can you name some big name bicycle advocacy groups who are genuinely in it to make significant progress?

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  • Ethan January 27, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Whatever they are shelling out, quadruple it and that might be fair for an auto company being allowed to pair itself with a bike advocacy organization . . . and it would show they are dead serious. Still chump change for them.

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  • jonesey January 27, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    I bike, and I walk, and I drive. As many people do. When I drive, I choose to drive the most eco-friendly motor vehicle I was able to purchase in 2005, a VW Golf TDI that runs on biodiesel (made from used cooking oil) and gets 50+ mpg on the highway.

    It would be great if VW could pair this announcement with another announcement that they were going to start selling their 60+ MPG BlueMotion Golf in the US.

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    • Anon1q2w3e4r5t January 28, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Suppose the automobile industry were able to make the most eco-friendly car with unlimited MPG, do think there will be high demand for such a car? and if so, how many people do you think will buy it? and as a result, do you think our streets will be safer?

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  • Dabby January 27, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    I love Volkswagon and Bikes Belong.
    My first car was a Bug, 30 years later my next one will be a 68′ bus.

    Bikes Belong is helping finance one of my favorite things here in town, a “future” public pump track.

    Plus they help kid’s ride to school……Safely.

    What is not to like?

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    • Anon1q2w3e4r5t January 28, 2012 at 10:05 am

      In my first comment above, I mentioned the old style VW bugs, but I don’t think readers understood why I mentioned them. The reason I mentioned them is because they are one of the biggest air polluting cars on the road today, and there is a significant number of them.

      A public pump track doesn’t benefit the general population at large. Yes, it’s wonderful that they’re making it safe for kids to ride to school, but is the school the only place kids ride to? How about Safe Routes to the Library, Safe Routes to the Market, Safe Routes to the Park/Beach, Safe Routes to Friend’s Houses, Safe Routes to the Mall, etc.

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      • Dabby January 28, 2012 at 11:58 am

        So, beyond stating the well known fact that older cars are less economical, or PC, your comment is asinine.
        And, anyone within the general population that chose to even to ride a pump track would benefit from it, as simply the process of learning to make it around the track the first time can be a workout.
        At Ventura Park, a little old lady spoke to me, (I mean like 92 years old at least) saying she was one of the people who was heavily against the Pump Track. LIke she did not want it to happen! Not in my park! She said it was mainly because she did not understand it at all.
        She told me that now, since the pump track was built, she and her son, who has had heavy head trauma, walk the track every dry day, as it helps with their balance issues.

        Take and eat.

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        • Greg January 28, 2012 at 11:38 pm

          Yes, but that’s kinda is the whole point, no? Those old air-cooled engines like the one in your soon to be ’68 bus are inefficient and pollute so much that they can cause a host of lung and heart diseases in your neighbors. Oh, and they’re totally unsafe at any speed and handle like a drunk grandmother. So they’re so wonderful exactly why then??? (And yes, I drove an old VW squareback once upon a time – but that was 30 years ago and it was pretty sucky vehicle even back then 🙂

          And yes, I now drive a (modern relatively clean) VW. But I have no illusions about the company that makes my car. It may be slightly less evil than other car companies, but the main reason for that was that their cars used to have to both satisfy US and European standards – e.g. the full force of what’s left of our democracies around the world fell upon them. Expect that to change now that they’re building more US specific models.

          VW will get away with whatever you let them – that’s the way of all companies once they get to a certain size. There’s no there there – just a bunch of more or less sociopathic execs trying to make next quarters numbers so they can get more money than their more or less equally sociopathic equivalents running the other soulless business entities they compare themselves too.

          Don’t like it? Then elect tougher governments. That’s the only thing that really matters…

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  • Bill Stites January 28, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    If only we had an obvious indicator of sincerity – oh wait, there is one … and it’s front and center.
    In the lead image of this story, note the proportion of the VW logo relative to the event logo. The large size of the VW logo speaks volumes, and I submit is a true metric of the greenwashing effect.
    A logo 1/10th that size might actually make me feel better about this association with VW.

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  • Andrew K January 30, 2012 at 8:04 am

    wow, so much pessimism under this article.

    Yes, it’s true VW is a car company and their ultimate goal is to sell as many cars as they can, but why does it have to be totally “us vs. them”?

    Wouldn’t it be reasonable to think that VW doesn’t want to see their cars get into accidents with bikes?

    VW execs aren’t stupid. They are fully aware that most peopke who ride bikes still own a car. I do. I may not drive it nearly as much as other people do, but I still have one. Large corporations sponser non-profits all the time and if Bikes Belong has the goal of making safer bike routes this makes sense for VW to jump on board.

    I highly doubt they have become a sponser with the mindset of throwing a wrench in the works of Bikes Belong.

    And on a final note, I love the commercial that has recently come out. It’s obvious it was filmed in Portland.

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    • anon1q2w3e4r5t January 30, 2012 at 10:08 am

      So you think car companies should continue selling the amount of cars they are selling now or more? and our streets should accomodate the same amount of cars or more?

      Of course VW execs aren’t stupid, they know their sponsorship will not adversely affect their business, in fact, it helps their business because of the positive PR they receive.

      Large corporations that sponsor non-profits are not doing it for altruistic reasons. If they genuinely care, then they would donate to these non-profits anonymously to prove they don’t have any ulterior motives.

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      • Andrew K January 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm

        Car companies are going to keep selling cars so long as people continue to buy them. That’s called capatalism. So long as there is a market for something corporations will make it and sell it.

        No matter what I believe the question you need to be asking is whether or not people should be BUYING more cars… Or perhaps more importantly, you sould be asking the question of whether or not people should be DRIVING more…

        But ultimately that is a whole seperate discussion. The stated purpose behind Bikes Belong is to promote safe biking and bike related infrastucture. I don’t think it’s crazy to think that a car company would be on board with that goal. After all, they don’t want to see their cars insure or kill people.

        I’ve seen it pointed out several times on this blog and others that building up bike infrastucture is good for both bike riders and for cars. I agree with that notion 100%. It seems VW may agree with that sentimate as well.

        I’m not naive and I know ultimately the goal of VW is to make money. Did VW jump into this partnership thinking it would be a PR win? You bet they did! But so what? Corporations can at times be a partner for positive change. I personally applaud what they are doing in this case.

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        • 9watts January 30, 2012 at 1:26 pm

          “Car companies are going to keep selling cars so long as people continue to buy them. That’s called capatalism. So long as there is a market for something corporations will make it and sell it.”

          Um. It is not quite that simple.
          Your argument, familiar though it is, elides the fact that companies who hope to sell you something must and have figured out a million ways to entice you, convince you that their product will make you sexy, admired, strong, wealthy, etc. Remember, cars didn’t fill a need, anymore than auto defrost refrigerators or air conditioning did. Consumers had to be produced first, conditioned to recognize these products as useful/necessary/desirable.
          Capatalism, as you call it, is having trouble lately, and the market for cars is not what it used to be. Remember when taxpayers got to bail out GM recently? VW is doing quite well right now, but they’re not dumb. They know that they’re not going to be doing so well when their customers can’t afford the gasoline or diesel to drive around in their cars.

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