"If cycling is as great as politicians often say it is, they should invest much more money in it," the European Cyclists' Federation president Manfred Neun told assembled industry executives and bicycle advocates at an industry Advocacy Summit at Eurobike earlier this afternoon.
Neun was drumming up more industry support for the three-year old Cycling Industry Club, a sponsorship program for bicycle companies - big and small - to support ECF's advocacy work.
"We need to speak with one voice worldwide," said Neun, a former bicycle industry executive. "There are lots of different cycling cultures around the world but we all have the same goal: getting more people cycling, more often."
Kevin Mayne, development director of the European Cyclists' Federation, and former CEO of the UK's CTC, said cycling has been undersold by advocates and the industry alike for many years.
"In the past we didn't shout loud enough that cycling was part of the solution to creating better cities. Politicians only heard from car makers. They told politicians they had a four wheeled product that came with the promise of sex. We've had to professionalize and grow up to combat this sort of clever marketing."
In an appeal for more companies to join the Cycling Industry Club, Mayne added: "[The ECF] is described as a not-for-profit organization. Are we hell! We're in this for profit. Your profit!"
He asked the executives at the meeting to take a look at the ECF's Euro Velo map of bike routes in Europe and said: "That's not a map, it's a business plan! When areas invest in cycling, payback is mulplied many times over. In the Netherlands for every €40 spent on cycling [per head of population] the benefits [to society] are worth €400."
If the bicycle industry spent more on supporting the ECF's advocacy work it could spend more time lobbying politicians and creating betters conditions for Europe's cyclists, said Mayne.
In a press statement issued earlier today, the ECF estimated that cycling in Europe was worth €217bn, "as much as the entire GDP of Denmark." This figure was reached by adding up all the positive externalities of cycling, including improvements to health (€121bn), less congestion and better air quality. It also included €18bn for the worth of the European bicycle business.
The ECF said: "Policy makers are not easily convinced if you can’t speak their language – no matter the level of government. Professional advocacy by ECF and its member organizations is the best way for the bike industry to get investment by politicians and increase sales."
Mayne said the ECF carries out "essential work for political influence. We have understood that leaders like Angela Merkel need economic arguments to invest in cycling in times of economic crisis. So it is our job as advocates to create and use the tools that work. But we must also put it in a language we can all use. €200bn means saving €400 for every citizen of the EU. That is how cycling advocacy works. Strong, relevant messages in the right language."
Cycleurope CEO Tony Grimaldi said in the ECF press release: "I think every European cycling company should join the club in order to increase the importance of the bicycle in cities of the future. We know that we have to win the support of governments if we want to double cycling in Europe and continue to strengthen the cycling industry for the benefit of all companies."
At the meeting, Stan Day, president of SRAM, and one of the first and largest supporters of ECF's Cycling Industry Club, said:
"The global brands such as ourselves, SRAM and Giant are the largest supporters of the Cycling Industry Club (although the Accell group is kind of global now). But we need more European companies to get involved, both with the ECF and with talking cycling with their local mayors and politicians."
Jeroen Snijders Blok, COO of Accell Group said: "The role of ECF’s Cycling Industry Club is to convince local, national and international governments and national and international health organizations of all the advantages cycling brings.”
He added: The bicycle industry will be out of business if we don't sell more bicycles."
From the left:
Kevin Mayne, development director of the European Cyclists' Federation; Jeroen Snijders Blok, chief operating officer of the Accell Group; Ton van Klooster of street furniture company VelopA; Tony Lo, CEO of Giant; Patrick Seidler, president of Wilderness Trail Bikes; (front) Tony Grimaldi, CEO of Cycleurope; Stan Day, president of SRAM; Frank Bohle, CEO of Ralf Bohle, the owner of the Schwalbe brand; Manfred Neun, president of the European Cyclists' Federation.