Low key BA AGM

Last weeks AGM of the Bicycle Association was unusual on a number of counts. One, for the first time in nearly 20 years it was held without secretary Josie Carter (shes retired without fanfare). Two, there were no press invitations. Three, no guest speakers were booked as an official council meeting was scheduled for the afternoon instead of the next day
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The presidents speech from last Wednesday has now been forwarded to us. The most newsworthy points include:

* Bike sales in 1999 were up by 3 percent over 1998. The most significant move was that of an increase in the middle priced sector of the market, said Eccleston.

* A new European Commission report on road safety may throw up the spectre of mandatory helmet wearing for cyclists as well as compulsory and expensive type approval for bicycles as opposed to the current method of self-certification. Can you imagine having to pay for a test every time you have any specification change? asked Eccleston.

* Eddie Eccleston admitted the forthcoming Millennium Festival of Cycling was at the mercy of the weather. A poor turn-out would impact on gate receipts and as the show was now the main source of revenue for the Association this would not be a welcome outcome.

* BA members are slow in getting their output figures to Mintel. So slow, in fact, that the secret market data disseminated only to contributors (oh, and to BikeBiz, thanks to a mole in the camp) will probably be pulled.

In the absence of a question and answer session from the floor, BikeBiz rang the president to amplify some of the points in the full speech given below and these are inserted in square brackets in the speech.

PRESIDENTS SPEECH

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

WEDNESAY 10 MAY 2000

A DIFFICULT YEAR FOR OUR ASSOCIATION

We have had no separate income stream this year, and this has certainly put pressure on our core activities and in fact our reserves.

We have embarked on a change of emphasis for the BA by moving to a more consumer-facing organisation. With this, we have had the retirement of Josie. These three issues alone have proved very difficult.

INCOME

The biggest opportunity to generate significant income is to organise an exhibition. After considerable debate that covered location, risk, format etc and acknowledging that the year 2000 would be an outstanding year for the promotion of cycling, as the Sustrans project is a Millennium Commission sponsored project that should ensure media attention, a decision was taken in June 1999, at a full members and then council meeting to embark on a consumer show, timed to maximise on the expected high profile of cycling.

In partnership with the CTC and to a lesser extent other parties, the National Cycling Festival 2000 was born.

This Festival will take place in June, within the Millennium Festival of Cycling week. I hope it will be seen as a success for the exhibitors as well as making a contribution to our Association.

I use the word hope as we are to a large extent at the mercy of the British weather.

We will continue to review the show subject and, in fact, it will be discussed this afternoon, at the council meeting.

[In press releases from the PR company working for the BA on the National Cycling Festival 2000 a figure of 50 000 paying visitors is given as the likely attendance. This would be wonderful if it was achieved and BikeBiz hopes it comes true, but, we asked, is the show a flop if less people attend? Eddie Eccleston said not. The exhibition has successfully passed the first target for number of exhibitors and the rest will no doubt join closer to the date as is usual with exhibitions. The profits from the show would be split between the BA and the CTC with the CTC guaranteed the same level of profits as they normally generate when the York Rally is a CTC-only event].

Other income streams and member benefits are being investigated, and one or two are in fact already in place. Member support is required for them to succeed.

[The member benefits include an employment law helpline service and a private health scheme. One of the new revenue streams could be a 1.5 percent brokerage fee on pensions sold by BA member companies to their employees. By summer next year the law will have changed on pensions with companies either having to offer stakeholder pensions or guide their employees into a suitable scheme. The BA, as an association, can, just like a trade union, be a conduit for pension provision advice. Eddie Eccleston told BikeBiz that an industry-wide pension scheme could be organised along with the ACT].

It must be acknowledged this process is time consuming, and of course we would require a number of these schemes for them to contribute significantly to income.

THE SUBJECT OF CHANGE

A decision to be more consumer facing was taken and an objective to reduce the amount of time commitment for members and council was set.

To bring about this change, and in true British tradition, a committee was formed. This body was made up of volunteers (some, of course, press ganged) and they would have individual reporting responsibilities to members and to council.

The committee members are:

Finance John Spon-Smith

Internal communications Mel Payne

PR Patrick Barker

Technical Grant Allen

European association Eddie Eccleston

There are also co-opted members. Rick Stanforth, and for a short time, John Moore. One of the reasons for the logic of a small committee was to speed up the day-to-day decision making. I must admit that the communication of these decisions has left some members feeling a little left in the dark.

I propose therefore to reinstate a summertime council meeting to help in this area.

However, we did experience some of the benefits of this new format, only a couple of weeks ago at the last members meeting: Grant Allen gave a technical presentation that we all found both informative and interesting.

And I feel that by having an individual member who can focus on one of the various activities or issues that we will see the benefits of a clearer understanding more often.

THE LEVY

I must of course congratulate and thank all those who took part and are still taking part in the levy scheme. My special thanks go to the non-B.A. members and to the retailers who gave their support.

Sustrans are looking to host a presentation to all the contributors and the York show looks like the favoured venue. John Beard will keep you updated on this.

There will be a special meeting convened very shortly to discuss the future of the levy.

I hope we can continue a levy scheme in one format or another.

CPAG

Our support of CPAG [Cyclists Public Affairs Group) continues and has shown itself to be money well spent, when once again the issue of compulsory helmet wearing came up in parliament and was successfully fended off.

It is possible we will see a general election soon, and it could be as early as October. With an election comes the inevitable re-shuffle, therefore with new ministers in new roles we will have to shout for our needs.

The organisation that shouts for us (CPAG) will be under pressure. Bodies such as the M.A.A. and our friends downstairs [meaning the Motor Manufacturers Assocation and the equivalent motorcycle body, this latter one being based in the same building as the BA] have a huge resource available for this activity. I wish therefore to emphasise the need to continue the funding of CPAG.

COLIBI & COLIPED

The BA is a member of Colibi and Coliped. With the European Commission forever expanding its rules and regulations, the need to be informed is paramount.

As the BA is a member of these two industry organisations, we have access to information from the Commission. Also we get to know what the markets are like elsewhere in Europe.

There are new initiatives from Coliped such as Made in Europe campaign and the European Dossier. The Accessories and Components members have already received copies of these documents.

I am aware of a new Commission document on road safety, it mutes to mandatory helmet wearing but, more significantly, to type approval for bikes. Type approval as a directive from the Commission would certainly be different from our current self certification system. Can you imagine having to pay for a test every time you have any specification change?

Our industry cannot afford this.

Colibi will be acting for us in this matter. (I know this because at the moment I am the acting president).

Currently Colibi is reviewing its constitution, it is hoped that its main objective of expanding cycle use across Europe will be supported in actuality and not just on paper.

[The industry standard for pedal cycles BS6102 is a voluntarily certificated standard and type approval for every specification change is not required. In the car and motorbike industry type approval is standard practice and built into the price of the finished product. The European Commission has charged a private body with researching road safety across Europe and this body is minded to extend type approval across all transport industries. It has not consulted the European bicycle industry about this and Eddie Eccleston wants the BA and other trade organisations to lobby against any extension proposal. I would like the BA to become more proactive in bicycle promotion and to react faxter to anything that effects our business.]

STATISTICS

Another core activity is the funding of the collection of data by Mintel. It must be said that the response to deadlines for the information has been poor, so poor in fact that the very need for the service came into question. However we are to fund this for another year. I urge all participants to give the completed forms to Mintel within the agree time frame.

[Contrary to this statement it is now believed that the BA will not be paying for the Mintel service this year but may reinstate it in the future.]

REVIEW OF LAST YEAR

To give a short review of last year, as far as the cycle market is concerned the year turned out to be better than the previous year by approximately 3 percent. This improvement was also reported across Europe. The most significant move was that of an increase in the middle priced sector of the market.

We were also in at the thick end of the successful action to stop dumping duties on frames and forks.

We have moved some way in our efforts to foster better relationships with other industry bodies. The ACT now joins us at our meetings. We are working with the CTC on the York Show and we have regular meetings with the All-Party Friends of Cycling at Westminster.

And this year we reached the first target of a million pounds towards our support of Sustrans and the creation of an infrastructure for cycling.

In a difficult period for the BA we have still achieved a lot of good. I believe this association has a great deal to offer and even though it takes up quite a lot of my personal time, I still think it is time well spent.

I would, of course, like to take this opportunity to thank all the active members. I would also like to thank especially Pat and John for their sterling efforts. Also I would like to thank Josie, albeit in her absence, and wish her all the best in her retirement.

I would like to conclude by asking you for your continued support, in making our association effective, making it the lead body in cycling and I urge you to mget personally involved in making our organisation an association that is not only providing a portfolio of services but is also something to be proud of being a member of.

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