The Bike Hub levy is paid by independent bike shops and suppliers. It's not always been clear what it has paid for, and why. But, as the joint creation of the Bicycle Association and the Association of Cycle Traders, it's an example of how two very different organisations can put aside their differences and agree to work for the common good.
The levy, in fact, has been a leveller, a reason for the two trade bodies to meet at regular intervals.
Bike Hub may have been guilty of hiding its lights under a bunch of bushels, but it's brought two bodies closer together and showed them cooperation pays dividends.
Similar levy schemes were tried in the 1970s. They paid for PR schemes and other short-lived promotional efforts. Bike Hub, on the other hand, has lasted and lasted. In truth, it's lasted for a lot longer than anyone would have believed possible. It was created in 2003. Six years later and it's raising the best part of half a million pounds a year.
The ACT's Mark Brown admits communication about the scheme has been lacking in the past.
SIDE-BY-SIDE FOR CYCLING
"Most bike shops have heard of Bike Hub. After all they are paying invoices which detail their contribution to the fund. Whether those shops have a clear understanding of what Bike Hub does is a different matter, but one that we are now actively working to address.
Brown says Bike Hub has been a victim of its own success. "The three main projects we have historically focused on have all performed really well. Bike It has been a real trailblazer and delivered some fantastic results. The BikeForAll website is getting well over 30,000 visits a month, helping people find useful information on many aspects of cycling. Finally Bike Week is working as a mass participation event. The committee has been guilty of not spreading the word on Bike Hub as effectively as it should, to the trade and beyond.
“After the initial launch of the fund and the flurry of publicity things died down and we lost focus. This was partly due to the fact that the projects and investments were doing so well I think we all assumed the world knew. We are working to change things and I hope more people in the industry will be aware of what's happening with Bike Hub and that we are generating a good return on their investment in the fund.”
Unaware of what Bike Hub stood for, and how it unlocked millions of pounds of Government cash for cycling, some IBDs have struck off Bike Hub tallies on invoices, leaving suppliers to pick up the tab.
"If shops can pay they should pay," claims Brown. "I appreciate that not every region has a Bike Hub project in it, but we are working on this. However, taking a broader perspective, I think the fund is good for cycling and increasingly good at promoting our industry. Some of our future initiatives will also raise promotion of specialist cycle retailers which I think is important. Hopefully as the Bike Hub committee re-focuses its efforts on promoting what is happening, more people will see why they should pay the levy.
WE NEED YOU...
"The new £100,000 investment project will hopefully go some way to addressing this, and hopefully getting some local cycling projects off the ground which could involve bike shops.
"We are working with Sustrans to more effectively link Bike It officers around the country with local stores, which I think could be a very good opportunity. And, of course, we are doing more to communicate what is happening with Bike Hub on a more regular basis.
“The re-developed BikeForAll website – to be re-named BikeHub.com – will also have a much stronger promotion of the fund and of bike shops.
"Cycling in the UK is at a very exciting time and I think the industry needs to be joined-up in doing something big which can have a widescale impact. I also think it needs to be seen to be joined-up and investing in this way. While I appreciate not every project will have a tangible benefit for each contributor it does have an incremental and long-term benefit for the industry.
"We are currently working to 'map' Bike It officers and their regions with local bike shops and make the connections. From here bike shops can join Bike It projects. I certainly think there might be opportunities to create templates for bike shops to follow, however I also think we have to be careful of not undermining the benefits of a co-ordinated approach versus individual actions."
If Bike Hub had never got off the ground, would Britih bike shops be in a better or worse position today? Does Bike Hub have a genuine market impact? "I think the impact of Bike Hub is still to be felt," says Brown.
WORKING FOR TOMORROW
"Certainly, some bike shops have really benefited from it to date. Yet, we still don't know about the long term impact of getting more kids cycling to school and the impact that might have as they become the cyclists and advocates of the future."
If Bike Hub imploded tomorrow, what would that tell the Government and the trade? "The trade would say 'told you so, we can never work together'. Government would say 'told you so, the bike trade can never work together'."
But the bike trade has been working together. Since 2003 the levy scheme has raised millions of pounds for promoting cycling. And Brown wants to see that continue.