- Ever thought you might feel safer riding on the road if you had a bike lane?
- Wish there was a bike rack outside of your favorite restaurant?
- Want to feel like you are part of a strong bicycling community that can make a difference in the quality of life here?
These three questions were part of an invitation that engaged over 100 members of the Austin cycling community, who came together on May 3 and 4 to discuss the future of cycling in Austin. The summit, facilitated by S & G Endeavors, marked a new era in local cycling advocacy, as during the preceding six months, Austin’s two largest cycling advocacy organizations (Bike Austin and Austin Cycling Association) had used a collaborative process to merge into a single, more effective corpus of advocates. The May 3-4 summit marked the kickoff of the new organization’s strategic initiative (See what five participants at the summit thought in the video interviews below).
Why? For more than a year, Austin Cycling Association and Bike Austin had engaged in discussions about how they could combine forces to become a more efficient, more effective force promoting cycling in Austin. Struggling amid lackluster community support, both organizations felt that excitement about recent improvements had given way to a misplaced general sense that matters were well in hand. Wanting to preserve momentum, the boards of both organizations opted to combine forces.
“Working with Jeremy and the team at S & G Endeavors made the merger between the Austin Cycling Association and Bike Austin an exciting, transformative journey of discovery for everyone involved,” said Hill Abell, Vice President of the Bike Austin board. “Between the technical challenges of merging two very different organizations and the participants different visions of what a local bike advocacy group should look like, the prospect of the merger coming to fruition seemed to be a long shot at times. Jeremy’s optimistic attitude and ability to remain focused on the core issues that needed to be resolved, combined with his dogged persistence, has supported us in creating an organization that will create a vastly improved environment for cycling in Austin.”
How? With process guidance from S & G Endeavors, the newly aligned Bike Austin (the brand under which the two organizations opted to move forward) developed a draft strategic framework for the new entity. This draft framework set the stage for the community input at the summit. The restructuring of Bike Austin, completed throughout the collaborative process and prior to the summit, included the merging of the boards of the former Austin Cycling Association and Bike Austin, which both now serve as the boards of two separate organizations under the aegis of Bike Austin, namely a political advocacy organization called Bike Austin (a 501(c)(4) organization), and a charitable organization called the Bike Austin Education Fund (a 501(c)(3) organization).
Engaging the community, Increasing buy-in.
During two full days at the “Accelerate Community Strategy Summit on the Future of Austin Bicycling,” participants from all corners of Austin’s cycling culture had an opportunity to discuss and provide input on the most important goals of the community and ways to best utilize available resources to achieve those goals. The collaborative summit was designed with a combination of proven change processes, all designed to engage participants in a variety of conversation and action planning. To help participants guide the development of strategy, Bike Austin also invited a number of local and nationally recognized experts as panel participants to weigh in with helpful insights regarding the most effective means of transforming communities toward safer, more effective and widespread utilization of bicycling.
“I was thrilled to participate in the merger of two very important organizations in Austin. The power of the Austin Cycling Association’s education and organized rides combined with Bike Austin’s advocacy leadership will really transform bicycling in Austin,” says Allison Kaplan, a board member of Bike Austin. “The merging and visioning process was made a lot easier with S & G Endeavors’ leadership, and I greatly enjoyed experiencing the passion of the community during the summit. The bicycling community placed their trust in us to achieve the goals they set, and we remember that with every step we take.”
On the ground successes since: Coming out of the summit, Bike Austin has energized working groups of eager volunteers that are now meeting regularly to develop plans to advance several initiatives, including promoting cycling and educating the public; engaging city staff and providing guidance and support in the development of cycling infrastructure; providing support for pro-cycling policy development; and engaging the community to ensure that the movement continues to grow.
As stated by Hill Abell, “While the hard work has truly just begun, the merger process led by Jeremy and S & G Endeavors was an enormous success and has Bike Austin poised for a great future.” And, Bike Austin is already demonstrating that success, just six months later, by running a successful campaign to unanimously pass the new Austin Urban Trails Master Plan. By building support, working directly with city council, and turning out support at the meeting and via emails, this is just one of the short-term wins that the organization can link back to the process and the summit.
Congratulations to the leadership of Bike Austin on your success! Looking forward to hearing about more wins in your future.