March 1, 2016
When Two Wheels Collide
By Dani Nichols
Photo at right: The Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes board members celebrate the merger of the two Washington state advocacy groups. Photo courtesy of WA Bikes
There’s been an exciting new development for cycling in Washington state this year with the merger of Washington Bikes and Cascade Bicycle Club.
At the end of 2015, the boards of directors of both nonprofit bicycling organizations approved the merger—which created the nation’s largest statewide bicycle nonprofit.
Starting in 2016, the Cascade Bicycle Club will be the 501(c)(3) tax-deductible wing and will focus on education, diversity and inclusion programs, signature events and advocacy work.
The organization’s 501(c)(4) arm, Washington Bikes, will address statewide policy, outreach and candidate endorsements and help sponsor selected statewide events and activities.
“We’re really excited and honored by this opportunity to merge with such a great organization,” said Elizabeth Kiker, Executive Director of Cascade Bicycle Club (CBC). “We know that this is a monumental step forward for bicycling in Washington state.”
Since the two organizations effectively merged on Dec. 31, 2015, Kiker said the Boards agree to deliver on everything budgeted and planned as individual organizations in 2016.
The Boards will then work together to make a long-term plan for 2017 and beyond. The newly formed organization will hold a strategic planning meeting sometime in 2016 and ask the public to participate.
“We want to hear from people. What do you want to see? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? What matters to you?” said Barb Chamberlain, former Executive Director of WA Bikes and now Chief Strategic Officer for the organization.
Combined with a look at what both CBC and WA Bikes already do well, public feedback will inform their plans for the future, she said.
Chamberlain explained that the two organizations want to build on past successes such as “Safe Routes to School,” the Major Taylor Project and bike tourism promotion, making those programs more effective.
They also plan to look into new programs and expansions as the two groups move forward with opportunities for advocacy as a more powerful and influential organization.
The leadership of the merged organization, said Chamberlain, will still be supported by WA Bikes; even more now as WA Bikes has greater statewide reach and resources.
“In fact, now we’re an even bigger, better partner for those local, regional clubs,” she said.
The state of Washington leads the American Bike League’s Bicycle Friendly State Rankings, and has done so for eight years.
“We bring two things together: local, regional and statewide advocacy and policy successes,” Chamberlain said. “Now that we’ve merged, we support local advocates much better and we are stronger together with more to share.”
There will be a few changes to keep the merged organization running smoothly and efficiently. For instance, WA Bikes will cede their “Safe Routes to School” program to CBC, so that both entities are not working on separate bike-to-school programs. Both executive directors said that this new ability to focus and delegate will bring more clarity and better efficiency to the organization’s work.
In the past, Cascade participated in political endorsements, but now those, and suggested policy changes, will be handled through the WA Bikes branch.
The design team for WA Bikes also changed the logo’s colors to make both entities “feel like family,” said Brent Tongco, Communications and Marketing Director for CBC.
Sometimes change can be unpleasant or even scary, but Elizabeth Kiker has observed otherwise.
“We’ve been heartened by member response,” Kiker said. “We’re hearing that our members are excited and hopeful for the future.
“Partnering with WA Bikes gives us the opportunity to have even more impact statewide, and have more education and efficacy throughout Washington state,” Kiker added. Many of the current programs each organization has in place will continue throughout 2016.
Directors of the new organization encourage feedback from cyclists in Washington state, including ideas for improvements or new programs in their area especially for 2017 and beyond.
Check the website for both organizations for meeting announcements and feedback requests.
As Chamberlain said about the largest cycling nonprofit in the nation, “this organization is here for you.”
Central Oregon-based writer, traveler and new mom, Dani Nichols has added a baby-sized bike trailer to her urban two-wheeler. Read more about her adventures at wranglerdani.com/blog