With a record 800 delegates in attendance, the US National Bike Summit started today in Washington DC.
Tomorrow there will be a keynote speech from Ray LaHood, the US Secretary of Transportation. The keynote speech at today’s opening meeting of the League of American Bicyclists was given by Eben Weiss, aka Bikesnob. He plugged his new book, The Enlightened Cyclist, a comic, yet serious, take on bicycle transportation.
He said commuting by bike was the "most dynamic aspect of cycling today" and "it’s the one aspect of our lives where, on a daily basis, we’re exposed to fighting with strangers. And death."
However, by acknowledging this "maybe we can make conditions a little better," he said.
"Riding a bike is a beautiful thing."
Weiss (above) was the warm-up man for League president Andy Clarke. He – and the board members of the League – might have been expecting fireworks from the floor thanks to the recent announcement to explore a merger with Bikes Belong and the Alliance for Biking and Walking.
However, apart from a little dissent, there was mostly a cautious welcome to the merger talks from the 70 or so members present.
Clarke said: "Having three organizations in the same space makes sense. With cycling mainstreaming it would be good to talk with one voice. The new organization – if it comes to pass – would be a powerful force."
He added: "We are all very excited about the opportunity. We need to get the details right to make this work.
"We don’t want to toss away the history of the League. [It was founded in 1880 as the League of American Wheelmen]. And there are issues of organizational structure and staffing to work out."
Clarke (above) stressed that the merger wasn’t being done as an emergency measure:
"We all come into this discussion from positions of strength. This is not to save money or jettison programs."
And he added that the merger was not a done deal: "We can call off the wedding. We can go court somebody else."
He then quipped: "Look out Adventure Cycling or IMBA!"
Clarke said there would be a commitment to keeping any new organization as first and foremost a membership organisation not a just a lobby group funded by industry grants. He said all the indications were that the bicycle industry would increase its funding for a more united organization.
League members who have expressed anger at the merger talks are "Just one or two individuals. People get what we’re doing."
He admitted: "We don’t know the exact implications yet. It’s an open and transparent process. We are not ready with a plan to show you yet. We have an end of September deadline. We’re not doing it by stealth. We want to bring everybody else along with us."
(Above) John Burke, CEO of Trek, and one of the bike industry’s most vocal supporters of advocacy efforts.