Crazy idea, I know. Nonetheless I have it in mind to give this a go. Long post - skip to the questions at the bottom if you must.
I live in a city of about 30k. We have two bike shops and a co-op, the latter of which I'm a principle. The bike club was dying when I moved here 15 years ago; my sense is they were strictly performance focused and pushed others away. Taking a wild guess I'd say we have 300 recreational road cyclists and maybe a couple dozen who race in some form. About 20 miles away we have a decent MTB-friendly State park, so there are some fairly serious MTB riders. We have a BMX track and a small BMX club. We have a growing number of commuters - the city is flat, fairly compact, with light traffic by big city standards. The city govt is supportive of cycling, with miles of MUPs in-place, the first bike-lanes just laid, and all future road project have bike lanes in the plan. The local hospital has a Healthy Communities program that's trying to encourage more walking and cycling.
Basically, I'm absurdly obsessed with cycling, have been my entire life. I like to share my passion for cycling with other people. I like to do community involvement work, and see a involvement in a cycling club as a way to combine the two. Also, I see a need/opportunity to pull some disconnected things together.
I know of three unrelated group road rides going on weekly, 15-25 people each. Probably another two or three like that around town, and many smaller groups. We have several fund-raiser rides around town throughout the year that draw hundreds: The Beer Ride, the Hope Ride, The Girlfriend Ride, Tour de Trails. I know most of the people behind these rides. At the bike co-op we have a core of five volunteers, with another ten or so sometimes volunteers.
My model club is CIBA in Indianapolis.
A bike club focusing on organizing and holding rides, for club members but open to the community. Ride routes are marked, maps provided, so people can ride their own pace. I will focus on recreational road rides, but if we can pull in volunteers interested in BMX, MTB, Commuting, racing, that's fine. Some connection to the co-op. I'd like to see a different ride every weekend, with standing rides on weeknights/weekdays.
So, my questions to those who are principles in bike clubs, or otherwise have relevant knowledge.
1) Regarding liability insurance. Allowing non-members to participate is key to drawing people into cycling. Does this present an extra challenge from the liability perspective?
2) For the people who currently have their own group rides going on, what's the draw to coming into the club? Insurance? Club mileage credit? I'm going to put some requirements on them, like marking their routes, providing maps, always being there on-time....
3) It's crossed my mind to skip the traditional club idea and try to do this entirely on social media. Just not sure if we're going to draw new people in that way. Thoughts? (I'll have to take this with a grain of salt, since unlike normal people BF members are 100% online)
4) With a population of 30k, can we sustain a club? We're not a college town, but we do have the highest number of mechanical engineers per-capita in the US