In 1996, Bill Wilkinson and Charlie Gandy of the Bicycle Federation of America (now the National Center for Bicycling and Walking) invited 20 leaders of bicycle advocacy organizations to the remote Thunderhead Ranch in Wyoming. There, participants discovered that colleagues around the country were facing both similar challenges in sustaining their advocacy organizations, and a common opportunity—the renewal of federal transportation legislation. Soon, these groups were key players in the bike industry-funded Bikes Belong Coalition. The result: After hard work implementing the bill in communities across America, $285 million in federal transportation moneys was invested in bicycling projects over six years.
By the end of the second retreat in 1997, these grassroots leaders had recognized that the special energy generated by these gatherings merited the establishment of a permanent organization dedicated to linking state and local bike advocacy organizations and leaders. The Thunderhead Alliance was born!
Since then, Thunderhead Alliance has held retreats, hosted regional and focused training sessions, energized national and international conferences and, most importantly, influenced policymakers at the state and local levels. In 2004 “pedestrian” was added to its mission since over a quarter of The Alliance organizations work to increase walking. Thunderhead Alliance has grown from a coalition of 12 organizations in 1996, to over 135 united biking and walking advocacy organizations today. In the last 12 years, Thunderhead Alliance and its member groups have established themselves as the preeminent forces for breaking down the barriers to safe bicycling and walking where it matters the most: at the state and local levels.