The Bicycle Association AGM is worth attending not least for the fact there are few other places where you can find representatives from Giant, Trek, Raleigh, Halfords, the head of the AA, the chief exec of the London Cycling Campaign and many other key members of the trade, all sat together in the same room.
This year the AGM fell one day before Future Publishing’s own spring Cycling Conference. Both events saw keynote speeches that often, by sheer coincidence, echoed the same sentiment: “Together we’re stronger”.
It’s a bit of a cliche and has been used in adverts, political speeches, company pep talks and more, but that’s because it is often true. Speaking with one voice is invariably an asset.
Let’s look at the evidence. There’s the Cycle to Work Alliance – including rivals Cyclescheme, Cycle Solutions, Evans Cycle and Halfords. All four compete with each other for business, but they downed weapons to join forces to pool their figures on how many people are using C2W and to lobby the government on how important the scheme is in terms of benefit to the UK and to the bike industry. It’s difficult to measure what difference that has made in real terms, but they formed in 2010 and the C2W scheme is still here, so it’s certainly not hurt the cause.
Then there are cycle advocates – particularly British Cycling and CTC – who compete for membership, yet managed to put that vital concern aside to campaign in one voice for the Get Britain Cycling inquiry, presenting the government with a united bicycle front that is asking for the same thing – safer roads for cyclists.
And this year’s BA AGM saw the BA merge with the British Electric Bicycle Association (BEBA), very much with that philosophy – casting aside any differences so that together, with one voice, they can lobby the government.
Why bother? For those outside the industry and cycle world, in-fighting and squabbling is a major turn off. It’s like that perhaps over-exaggerated news story last month where a group of Star Wars fans had a fight with Dr Who fans at a science fiction convention. Those daft nerds fighting amongst themselves, eh? Thankfully the bike world’s image is increasingly one of unity, presenting ever more compelling arguments for better provision and investment.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a call for dissenting voices to be silenced (not that they’d take any notice, rightly) or calling for an end to debate – there’s a fairly lively one going on about advocacy in the trade as I type. But when faced with the alternative of looking as organised and unified as a bag of in-fighting ferrets, resulting in the government saying “come back when you’ve made your mind up about what you want”, then I’m all for unity. Who’s with me?