Organizing A Bicycle Clubs
Starting A Bike Club
Bicycle clubs take many forms; some focus on organizing rides, some spotlight advocacy and other may be skewed to safety education. Also, it is not unusual for a club to start with one mission and over time see that shift a little or broaden out as the club matures. The vocabulary can be location specific as well; for some the motivation is health, or environment, or personal economics, or national economics or social opportunity, etc. There are so many ways and reason to be involved in bicycling that every club is a little different.
In all case, one way to get yourself and other cycling more often is to join forces by forming a bike club. Having others to help plan the events / rides and apply peer pressure to get people out lessens the work for everyone and increase the impact.
Using a ride organizing club as an example, the bicycle clubs provide members information on new places to ride, a body of like-minded people to ride with, a source of answers to cycling (and life) questions and a united front to help promote bicycling.
There are no rules or magic wand for starting a bike club. Forming a club is often an effort in community organizing, and community organizing is a effort in educating / marketing (i.e. "join the club to ride more often," "join the club for comradery," "join the club to see new places," "join the club to learn how to ride better," "join the club to share your knowledge and experience with others," etc.)
Ask yourself: What is the local "bicycle need"? How can you tap into it and help fill it. Probably no two bike clubs started the same way or have the same structure. You should feel comfortable using a structure that works best for you and your community.
If you are starting a bicycle club for youths it is often best to incorporate some none-bicycle activities into the pitch and programs (i.e. "cycle for pizza," "cycle for ice cream," "cycle to a bakery" -- but they don't have to be food oriented, for example "cycle to the movies," "cycle to the fun center," or "cycle to a special park".) Depending upon the skill level and safety awareness of the group you might have to work up to the most desirable destinations and infuse some safety messages into activities. Adult leading youth programs have special liability concerns. Because of this it is important that care be taken that participants demonstrate proficiency and safety know appropriate for the ride that they will be participating on, and have a liability waive signed by their parent or guardian.
A secondary benefit of a bicycling bike club is bicyclist get together and start talking about the challenges to cycling (i.e. bad roads, no space, unhealthy air, etc.) and they can metamorphose, at least partially, into activist organizations.
Bicycle clubs usually develop out of a series of activities; recreation rides, training rides and races, bicyclists' rights campaign, workshops/clinics (repairs, commuting, touring, racing, hot weather, cold weather, riding with children, etc). You can be a catalyst to the process by contacting interested people, distributing leaflets (usually where there are concentrations of cyclists) and posting notices (physical and cyber) to let people know what is happening.
In the process contact your local bike shop. They will often support a club by offering discounts to members on equipment and/or providing a meeting place. In exchange, the bike shop should be acknowledged in the newsletter and other appropriate club products and publications. Another source of support and ideas are national, regional or other large bike clubs in your area. It also may be advantageous to affiliate with one of these larger bodies, for example to get insurance. Racing clubs may be required to affiliate with a regulatory body.
If you are organizing your club on an activist agenda the education / sales pitch might need to emphasize on "you have a right to the road," "you can have cleaner healthier air, "you are helping your country so you should be proud to be a cyclist," etc. "Let's say it with one loud, clear voice." For opportunities to coordinate and cooperate you will want to seek out organizations active in conservation, environment, health, clean air, alternative transport, etc. More information for activists is available at our pages on organizing and advocacy.
If your first activity for forming your club is arranging a meeting, make sure it has a clearly stated goal, such as to form a club, to determine interest, to set a ride schedule or organize around a specific issue. If your first action is a ride or event then the goal is usually pretty clearly implied.
If you want a club based on recreational group rides, you might start by posting signs, making phone calls and sending email messages, that there will be a ride starting from some location, at a given time, every week on say Saturday. As these rides grow in popularity you can add a second series of rides on another day of the week. If the group of interested people is large enough you might have different rides with different levels of difficulty.
As the level of activity grows, you will need people to help lead the different rides, to help schedule rides and to work on communications. You are on your way to having a bicycle club. You will need to decide on a name that reflects the nature of the club, weather it is based on geographic area or purpose. Elect a committee and officers to look after club activities and plan finances. There is no one model for this. You can use as a model other organizations with about the same number of members and organizations with parallel type of activities, but in the end adopted a structure that the group will support and participate in.
A more difficult question is how to cover expenses. Generally groups start out very lean, with a absolute minimum of expenses. Those expenses that there are (printing) seem to be covered by a few committed people who chip in their own resources to pay the bills. Are the organization gets established and members see its value to them and/or the community it becomes practical consider charging membership dues. These will have to reflect the value of the organization and what the market will bear. It is unlikely that this will generate a windfall so expenses all likely to remain reined in. If you want a bigger organization you are going to need bigger bucks. These often generated from major fund raising events and/or grant writing -- neither one of which is a sure thing.
If not a lot of money is changing hands you probably don't have to register your club -- it is about like a book group. Once a significant amount of money starts changing hands you may need to register -- check with the agency that issues business licenses -- and you might have to concern yourself with event and organization issurance.
Once the club is established, don’t sit back and merely let events take their course. An active club is forever looking for new ideas, a regular influx of new members, a continual program. Keep recruiting, have a regular newsletter, establish a visual identity, keep in touch with local politicians and community service groups, produce a leaflet to be displayed at bike shops, make sure the bike shops are restocked with your leaflet, develop new club leadership, etc.
Bike clubs often arrange benefits for their members: loaner bicycle trainers and bicycle travel cases, discounts on club events, discounts at bike shops, and/or discounts for related services (i.e. memberships at gyms, the Y, car-sharing programs, Better World Club, etc.)
All this is a lot of work, but an energetic club with lots of volunteers can accomplish a great deal. The success of a club depends largely on the amount of effort put in by the members!
The International Bicycle Fund is an independent, non-profit organization. Its primary purpose is to promote bicycle transportation. Most IBF projects and activities fall into one of four categories: planning and engineering, safety education, economic development assistance and promoting international understanding. IBF's objective is to create a sustainable, people-friendly environment by creating opportunities of the highest practicable quality for bicycle transportation. IBF is funded by private donation. Contributions are always welcome and are U.S. tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
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