Bike Hub: Bicycle Association statement February 2017

Bike Hub: Bicycle Association statement February 2017

Bike Hub: Bicycle Association statement

15th Feb 2017

The Bike Hub levy scheme, administered by the Bicycle Association between 2004 and 2016, has raised just over £4.4m in 12 years from industry contributions, or £5.5m when including Government contributions.

It is one of the longest running industry levies in the world, and its aim to 'safeguard the future of cycling' has led to significant investments in major outreach and cycling promotion projects, including many with a focus on giving children a chance to try cycling: securing the next generation of riders and customers. It has also given the industry enhanced leverage with government, who see it as hugely positive that the industry is already working together to get things done. It has been a success on many fronts. As with any industry-wide collaboration, it has had its ups and downs, and some disagreements, but by and large it is a quite extraordinary achievement; testament to the vision, enthusiasm and generosity of our (relatively) small but highly committed industry.

The Bicycle Association has run the Bike Hub fund on an entirely voluntary basis, and covered administration costs from its own subscription income, never taking any management fee, so that all of the funds collected could be spent on the projects themselves. A small proportion was, by necessity, spent on the fund's accounts. We're currently working on both a report which sets out the fund's most recent work, to be published shortly, and following this an overview of the whole fund, covering the entire period from 2004 to 2016, to bring up to date the information on the BA's website. The BA has recently been made aware of some queries about historic Bike Hub spend and we are looking into these at the same time to clarify these areas.

As with any programme run over such a long period, there comes a point when it's time to re-evaluate, reinvigorate and bring it new purpose. How can we secure the future of cycling over the next decade? The new team at the Bicycle Association have, over the course of 2016, been consulting on and developing proposals for a successor to Bike Hub, with a somewhat broader remit. This new 'Bicycle Industry Fund' will explicitly focus on advocacy work as well as outreach projects, and encompass both a levy scheme and other fundraising approaches.

It is proposed that the advocacy work will be based on the Bicycle Association's 'manifesto', currently in the late stages of development in consultation with the industry and with cycle advocacy organisations. This sets out industry-specific priorities for securing the future of cycling. It makes explicit recognition of the important role the industry can and should play in advocacy - widely recognized by industry internationally to be 'the engine of sales'.

For all its strengths, there were also some weaknesses to the previous arrangements which the team propose should be explicitly addressed in the new Bicycle Industry Fund. Firstly, there will be more ways for businesses to contribute. Although the levy mechanism will remain as a core funding mechanism since it works well for many current contributors, it is not appropriate for all of the stakeholders who may wish to support the fund and its purposes. By opening up other mechanisms they will be able to participate and contribute.

The new fund will also ensure funding decisions are made as part of a focused strategy with clear, stated objectives. It will also be more transparent and representative, with more ways for contributors to influence the programme. Spending decisions and strategy will be discussed and agreed by a contributors' steering committee / panel, and the Association will establish mechanisms for collecting feedback from all contributors, including the independent bike shops who have been core supporters via the existing levy.

Finally, the pooling of contributions to the Bike Hub, and hence the anonymity of the contributors, has also meant for some a lack of recognition. As part of the Bicycle Industry Fund we are proposing a 'consumer mark' (think 'Fairtrade' for cycling) intended to give consumers an easy way to identify those businesses contributing to the future of cycling. Consumer pressure could then provide an incentive for additional contributors to come on board.

We're very excited about the new Fund, and will share details of our plans for it over the coming months.

Steve Garidis
Operations Director, Bicycle Association
steve (at) bicycleassociation.org.uk