City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Local Success Story Kicks Off Year of Co-operatives in Scotland

By edg - Posted on 09 January 2012

Dusk in the Pentlands

A special event at Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative on Thursday marks the UN's International Year of Co-operatives in Scotland on Thursday.

I bought my first mountain bike from Edinburgh Bicycle's Bruntsfield shop back in the early days of the co-operative.

By modern standards the bike was a heavy machine but I loved it. With its fat, knolly wheels it was a match for Edinburgh's potholed and cobbled roads, but more importantly it opened up parts of the city I never considered exploring before.

Like many people I was put off cycling in the city by the amount of motorised traffic. But now I began striking out to edges of Edinburgh along the often muddy, disused railway lines (many now converted into official pedestrian-bicycle paths).

My chunky new machine allowed me to extend my travelling range significantly, while avoiding most busy roads, riding from the city centre to the seaside towns of Cramond and Portobello; or making the longer haul to the Pentland Hills, via the Union Canal tow path and the old railway line to Balerno.

A few months later I took the bike on what was a physically pulverising trip in Rannoch Moor. Although we realised that we bit off more than we could chew with all the boggy, dense grass that we encountered, we still made good ground.

I was a happy customer. But what I particularly liked about Edinburgh Bicycle from the start was the organisation's advocacy work. (Its website says 10% of its projected net profit goes to supporting "grass roots cycling").

While there's obviously a business benefit to advocating for more cycling in Edinburgh and supporting events like Bike to Work, the annual Edinburgh to St Andrews Bike Ride or providing information and maps on its website, it's always seemed to be a vital element of the business.

The co-operative structure of the organisation, where workers take a share in the business really seems to appeal to many cyclists too.

It's obviously a well-run business. Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op has expanded from a small shop employing three people in 1977 to 130 members, 170 employees, an online store and six bricks and mortar branches in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield.

The co-operative business event on Thursday opens the International Year of Co-operatives 2012 roadshow programme in Scotland.