In the late April sunshine, tourists lined the congested streets of Westminster, while inside the Houses of Parliament, in Committee Room ten, cycle trade representatives gathered for the Bicycle Association Annual General Meeting.
The bicycle trade has hardly been a stranger to the Palace of Westminster lately. From last year’s ‘Cyclesafe’ Parliamentary debate and the Summer of Cycling launch to this year’s publication of the Get Britain Cycling report (taking place on the same day as the AGM), the cycle world has been darkening the door of power ever more often. A sign of the times?
As BA president Mark Bickerton pointed out, it was even the second time the association – 40 years old in 2013 – has held its AGM in Parliament, thanks again to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group co-chairs Julian Huppert and Ian Austin as well as Secretary Lord Berkeley.
Down to business
Statistics were among the topics discussed, with bike values proving to be rising, even if volume has remained static in the recent past. Bickerton explained: “We have been keeping tabs on the UK import statistics, which have gone up and down a bit over the last couple of years, but when you take abnormal delivery timing variances out of the calculations, imports seem to have remained at just over three and half million units per year for the last four years…
“So whilst we are all concerned with promoting more bike sales, especially through encouraging bike usage, it looks like we have seen growth in market value rather than volume. The good news is that bike sales continue to be pretty buoyant.”
From sponsoring the MP’s Bike Ride to working with the Department for Transport on the Cycling Stakeholder Forum advising on senior officials on future investment in cycling, the Bicycle Association has been busy.
The Technical Advisory Group, led by Alan Cater, is working on a project with Government on Cycle Safety Regulations applying to bells, brakes, lights, reflectors and EPACs with the results being published later this year. There’s a new website for the Bicycle Association too – www.Bicycleassociation.org.uk – that resizes according to whether you’re using a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone, and includes a log in for members to access reports.
But one of the biggest nuggets of news from the AGM was the amalgamation of the Bicycle Association and BEBA – the British Electric Bicycle Association. Over a 12 to 18 month timescale the two will become one. In the short-term BEBA chairman Mark Loveridge will join the BAGB council and BEBA will be represented on the BA’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) headed up by Alan Cater. Not only that, but all BEBA members will be able to attend BAGB general meetings and members of the BAGB will be able to attend BEBA meetings.
BAGB exec director Phillip Darnton said of the move: “This is a timely and important step to harmonise our working relationships across the cycle industry. Having one organisation committed to providing ‘one voice’ for the industry is of paramount importance in our relationships with government, Westminster and all key stakeholders. I have no doubt that this will be a signally successful merger with real benefits to all parties.”
BEBA chairman Mark Loveridge added: “Over the last three years, we have made considerable progress in developing the awareness, interest and sales of EAPCS in the UK. We now believe that the time is right to join forces with the BAGB to take forward this market sector; promote it industry-wide, and use our combined skills and strengths to lead the industry in realising the potential for electric travel.”
Apart from sharing news and statistics, Bickerton used part of his AGM address to pay tribute to two influential and notable bicycle industry figures who sadly passed away in the last twelve months – Dr Alex Moulton and John Moore. He said: “In very different ways, both these people significantly influenced the bicycle industry, over a very long period of time.”
AA president Edmund King, a headline speaker at the BA AGM, emphasising just how much cycling has climbed up the political agenda.
He said: “Things have moved on. I was at the motorists’ forum this morning and cycling was discussed. Five years ago cycling wouldn’t have been mentioned at all – it’s a small indication of the change we’ve seen.”
King went on to speak of his concern about the perceived ‘war’ between cyclists and motorists and how he has used his position to try and help tackle it – the AA spoke out against the BBC ‘War on the Roads’ documentary and has been a vocal supporter of The Times ‘Cities Safe for Cycling’ campaign, giving evidence at the Parliamentary Get Britain Cycling inquiry.
“This can be a real catalyst for change,” said King. “There’s a real move to make cycling a mainstream form of travel. 18 per cent of AA members are regular cyclists. You could double that. It is of the moment – but it does need leadership.”
“We need more training – the AA offers free courses for drivers and there are calls for cycling to be included in the National Curriculum…we have to start at a very young age. Kids are receptive the younger they are.
“We won’t accept it not getting on the curriculum,” King promised.
“There is hope for us in changing attitudes. Bikes have gone from trainspotting to high fashion – it’s the bike industry that has achieved that.”
Sustrans communications director Melissa Henry also took the floor, praising industry levy Bike Hub: “It’s an amazing thing, the industry is giving back to the grassroots.” Focusing on the Bike Hub-funded, Sustrans-run Big Pedal competition, Henry explained: “It helps the cycling culture bed in for schools. We want to develop it, get more schools involved…kids really want to cycling and Bike Hub makes it possible.”
The packed speaker schedule also saw London Cycling Campaign chief executive Ashok Sinha also paid tribute to Bike Hub – which has helped fund the Agewell on Wheels project, encouraging older generations back onto two wheels.
Like King, Sinha focused on how cycling has grown in recent years, with cycling fashionable for politicians to support and the press increasingly less hostile to cycling. He said the radical change in London has been down to political will – particularly from former and current Mayors Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson, respectively. The LCC has had to change, he added, getting more involved in advocacy and speaking to everyone, including non-cyclists. “We’ve got to bring the public with us,” he urged.
In April the European Commission agreed to extend the 48.5 per cent anti-dumping duty that is currently levied on bikes the EU imports from China.
BA president Mark Bickerton explained how the BA tackles the controversial topic: “We have had continued and considerable interest from BA members about Anti-Dumping Measures. Perhaps it is inevitable that there have been differing shades of opinion expressed, but this has been a perfect example of the value of the Bicycle Association as a network and a trade group. I would like to note that anti-dumping measures have been re-imposed, which, of course, is welcomed by some members, but by no means all. We continue to monitor, discuss and exchange views on this topic.”