The Annual General Meeting of the Bicycle Association of Great Britain has taken place in some auspicious surroundings in recent years – the past two at none other than the Houses of Parliament in Westminster – but few could claim to have been more appropriate than this April’s meeting at the Manchester ‘busiest in the world’ velodrome, aka head quarters to British Cycling.
Those that had faithfully attended the AGMs of recent years would doubtless have noted the boost in member attendance and in the number of speakers, compared with a comparably paltry turn out four or so years ago. So, with what seemed like more bicycle industry bigwigs packed into the AGM than ever before, what news from the gathering?
Down to business
The 41st BA AGM saw outgoing president Mark Bickerton pass on the presidency to Paul Stewart, former head of Eurobike Ltd and now bicycle director at Moore Large.
Bickerton used his outgoing address to plea for the industry’s continued support for IBDs: “One thing that has become ever more relevant to the industry is the growth of online sales, and the urgent need for the local bike shop to react imaginatively to ensure that their market share is not eroded. The local bricks and mortar bike shop has been the lifeblood of the cycle trade, and it is my firm belief that the trade will be a much sorrier place if too much business is lost to online. I would encourage you all to help the local bike shop as much as you can.”
Bickerton also paid tribute to an ever more lively Bicycle Association: “Looking back over my time as President, the BA has been increasingly relevant, useful, influential, and I hope an interesting organisation for members and partners alike. I feel that I am stepping down and leaving the Bicycle Association in a good state for Paul Stewart to continue with as my successor, who is extremely well qualified to take the helm.”
Industry funds future cycle stars
The bulk of the AGM presentations covered how the trade, via the Bicycle Association and industry levy Bike Hub, is backing initiatives that are growing cycling in the country. Appropriately, British Cycling’s director of coaching, education and development John Mills kicked off the round of guest speakers, elaborating on Bike Hub’s backing for the Go-Ride programme, announced back in February this year.
With 300 Go-Ride clubs around the nation, the reach of Go-Ride – British Cycling’s children’s development programme – is extensive. Luminaries from Go-Ride include the likes of Geraint Thomas and, famously, Laura Trott, who one fateful day in 2004 was pictured with Bradley Wiggins alongside his Individual Pursuit gold medal from Athens, perhaps encapsulating the moment the seeds were sown for her own Olympic victories. An impressive 60 per cent of the current funded riders on the Great Britain Cycling Team were progressed from Go-Ride Clubs.
Elaborating on the relationship with Go-Ride – the first step onto the Olympic Development programme – Mills told the room: “We really value the partnership and the chance to connect with the industry at an earlier stage.
“When we work with kids they are so enthusiastic. They always ask us ‘when can we race?’ They love it.”
Not only is bike industry money being channelled into future cycling generations via Go-Ride, but Mills pointed to the good work of bike shops sponsoring and supporting their local clubs. He was also keen to point out that Go-Ride’s influence extends beyond Olympic hopefuls. “The money works hard. It’s about riding a bike and breaking down the barriers, not just sport.”
Onto Sustrans, which has been the recipient of Bike Hub cash over the years through Bike It and most recently the Big Pedal. Sustrans’ Vincent Goodwin – one of the first Bike It officers – took the BA members through this year’s competition.
“It’s an important part of our year,” Goodwin explained. “The race is for any school, not just those who work intensively with Sustrans. It really sows the seeds for cycling.”
This year Big Pedal tightened the competition period to two weeks and ditched the Tour de France stage nature of the race following requests from schools. The changes clearly paid off and participation rocketed from 800 schools up to 1,500 with a grand total of 1,104,000 journeys to school on bike and scooter – and all over that shorter time period. Goodwin also noted the positive effect the Big Pedal has on teachers and parents.
Meanwhile cycle industry cash is also helping fund the London Cycling Campaign’s #space4cycling campaign. Not heard of it? The LCC’s chief exec Ashok Sinha was on hand to explain how it had its genesis in the 2012 London Mayoral election, where the LCC focused on bringing a positive message about cycling to key decision makers – in that case the Mayoral candidates – and ended with them all committing to several ‘Go Dutch’ pledges.
Fast forward to 2014 and the LCC is targeting London councils. Why? They run 95 per cent of London’s streets. Sinha elaborated on the “staggering ambition” of the campaign, to target 6,000 candidates over 624 wards and 32 elections for each of the 32 boroughs. An email tool has been created to send bespoke emails to each of the candidates. The massive undertaking will also be focusing on fun and won’t just stop at the M25 border.
Following a number of other presentations (see inset) it fell to new president, Paul Stewart, to conclude the proceedings (before most of the attendees got a guided tour of the Manchester velodrome). “So what next for the BA?” he pondered. “The Brit Cycling partnership is a really important move for us. My son goes to a Go-Ride club, but it doesn’t stop with the clubs. We had been missing the involvement of parents in these sessions, but now we see parents going on group rides – they got into it by bringing their kid to a Go-Ride club and that is really encouraging.
“Going forward it’s our vision to entice more of our members to contribute to Bike Hub, and for us to speak with a united voice, as a strong collective.”
At the AGM, outgoing president Mark Bickerton provided the Bicycle Association’s latest take on sales figures. He told the meeting: “Every year we talk about statistics, and we are constantly in search of the bicycle statistical holy grail, that is accurate statistical information.
“What we do know from the import stats, is that cycle sales have continued to be strong again this year, with imports running at about the same level as the last few years, at three and half million bikes. I noticed that Mintel have just published a report indicating sales in 2013 were valued at £745m.
In terms of sell through, in the shops, whilst the English weather is always a contributory factor, I have heard, anecdotally, that sales remained pretty buoyant even through the very wet winter, despite all that awful flooding. Thank goodness it stopped raining, and it has been pretty good, warm and dry, cycling weather since. Fingers crossed for a good summer.”
Any other business?
This generously sized portion of AGM also included a number of industry updates, not least from the British Electric Bicycle Association’s Mark Loveridge. He revealed that regulations and spreading the e-bike gospel are priorities: “BEBA is working with BA on UK and EU legislation disparity – and with Bosch and motorocycle industry to iron this matter out.
“We’re continuing to promote e-bikes through trials at various events; we saw over 1,300 test riders at the Gadget Show Live, we’ll be taking a pitch at Ride London again and we’ll be at the Chris Evans Car Fests.”
Loveridge is also involved in working with OLEV to try and get funding incentives for e-bikes on a similar level to electric cars and vans.
John Bushell of Sports Marketing Surveys Inc also took the floor to explain how his firm is working with several key brands in the industry to put together a cycle market report with accurate statistics (see inset page 17).
Daniel Gillborn, Cyclescheme director – Cyclescheme being the newest BA member – spoke on ambitions to double the number of participants of its Cycle to Work Day up to 40,000, while Carlton Reid revealed that the Bike Hub app – that which directs users to local bike shops wherever they are in the country – will also lead riders to British Cycling Go-Ride clubs.
Some of the team behind the Bicycle feature documentary, including Blue Hippo Media’s Pip Piper, also spoke out about the three themed film (covering design, transport and sport), the BA’s support for it and the growing interest in the doc from cinemas, broadcasters and festivals here and abroad.