Blog article

#CoopFortnight - Cycles, camaraderie, community and co-operation

“People join for the bikes and they stay for the co-op,” says Alan Nestor about Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative.

“What makes us unique is that our members are passionate about the product and the way we do business. Being a co-operative empowers our members to make a difference, and that’s why we’ll be flying the flag for Co-operative Fortnight."

Alan’s the managing director of the cycle shop co-op that was formed in 1977 by three bike enthusiasts who believed that being a workers co-operative was a fairer, better way of doing things. Forty-two years on, the co-op has two shops in Edinburgh, an online store and branches in Aberdeen, Newcastle and Leeds. It has 104 employees – who are invited to become members after a year – and 62 worker members. And it reaches into communities too, bringing people together to learn about bike maintenance to encourage green transport.

“We do grass roots outreach, working in schools, teaching children elements of cycle repair and servicing,” says Alan. “We work with organisers and teachers to provide something unique.”

In one of those schools, Edinburgh’s Wester Hailes Education Centre, the co-op was even involved in creating a course and delivering regular coaching to pupils. It’s just one element of what makes being part of a co-operative so rewarding.

“We also put on ‘bike doctor’ type events within our local communities, where we provide cyclists with help and support,” Alan adds.

He and his colleagues were pioneers in making cycle shopping more accessible and friendly, as he explains: “At one time bike shops were intimidating, gloomy exclusive environments. We opened that up and worked to make the experience and the product as appealing as possible all people. We added more lighting, displayed products differently and added women’s bikes to our offer. Accessibility has been key to what we do.”

And it’s that openness and inclusivity that has kept Alan at Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative for 23 years.  “There’s camaraderie, and a sense of belonging because we have this common interest in bikes,” he says.

“The reason I’ve stayed is because I wanted to be part of an organisation where I could affect change. It gives you a sense of ownership and achievement. And that’s important. I truly believe that individual members and members as a group can really make a difference.”

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Written by Wendy Carter
Updated: 03/06/2019