November 2017

Spokes is 40!!

“Spokes led that charge, which was a lonely position when Spokes began … but they were right,”
Cllr Adam McVey, Leader of Edinburgh City Council.

“One of the most effective campaign groups I’ve ever known – and all done by volunteers.  Proud to have been a member for 30+ years!”
Mark Lazarowicz, former Council Leader and Leith MP.

It’s great to get these compliments – but even more important is the fact that 8% of trips to work in Edinburgh are now by bike compared to 1% when Spokes was founded, whilst in Scotland as a whole bike modal share hardly moved over the same period.   Something special happened in Edinburgh – Spokes is proud to have been a part of it, and proud that it is now spreading to other parts of Scotland.


Here are some of the past and present Spokes activists, and local and national decision-makers, who came to celebrate at a Council 40th anniversary reception …

  • You’ll find a list of attendee names here – how many can you identify?  We would have loved to invite all 1200 Spokes members, but sadly space was limited – our apologies if you didn’t get an invite
  • Video of speeches by Cllr Adam McVey for the Council and Dave du Feu for Spokes
  • Transcript of Cllr McVey speech and slides used in Dave du Feu speech.


We have prepared a great exhibition, which was previewed at the reception.  It includes…

The posters (and other elements of the exhibition where possible) will circulate round a range of libraries and other public venues in the coming months – please contact us if you can provide a venue used by significant numbers of the public.

Exhibition dates and venues are on our history page [2nd bullet point].

Thank you to Sustrans Scotland and Edinburgh Bike Co-op who helped support production of our anniversary materials.


In a Scottish Parliament debate on Active Travel on 31 October, Spokes member Alison Johnstone MSP said…

“I am sure that members will wish to join me in congratulating Spokes, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. It is the Lothian cycle campaign, but it has been involved in bringing many policy issues to the Parliament. It has led the way on many issues, such as the ability of people who live in tenements to store their bike outside and the building of a strategic network of major motor-traffic-free cycle routes, for which there is a clear need.”

At a full meeting of Edinburgh City Council on 26 October, Spokes members Cllr David Key (the Council’s Cycling Champion) and Cllr Scott Arthur (unofficial Labour Cycling Champion!) proposed and seconded this motion [see item 9.4 on webcast]…

“Council notes that Spokes, the Lothian Cycle Campaign, was formed in 1977.  Further notes that Spokes has been a key player in ensuring the promotion of safe cycling within the City and throughout the Lothians.  Congratulates Spokes on its 40th anniversary and looks forward to continuing to work in partnership to ensure that Edinburgh remains the most cycle friendly city in Scotland.”


In case all the above sounds too self-congratulatory, it is worth remembering that we have suffered many setbacks and defeats on the way, often with lengthy fightbacks needed, and sometimes without a full recovery.  Here are some of the worst [see more details in our 40-years bikeography] …

  • 1991 – Total bike ban imposed on all train services between Scotland’s main cities [can you believe it? – this really did happen!]
  • 1996 – Lothian Regional Council abolished by Conservative government, with loss of Cycle Team and massive cycling development setback in particular for the 3 new small Lothians Councils

    Click for link to Cycling and the Edinburgh Tram report

  • 1990s/2000s – The potentially fantastic Canal to West End route commitment we had got into Council plans for the huge vacant goods-yard site was gradually watered down as individual planning applications were allowed to go ahead without incorporating quality cycle provision [slides 15 on]
  • 2000s – Failure to get Council acceptance of a bike-friendly tramline layout, despite our bringing over a Dutch consultant [click on picture]
  • 2008 – Capital for Regional Transport Partnerships scrapped by new Scottish SNP Government, including £4.5m which was budgeted for paths to the Forth Bridge and to the Lothians
  • 2016 – Failure of joint campaign with Living Streets to prevent the scrapping of Saturday and off-peak bus lanes.

As Council Leader Adam McVey said at the end of his speech at our reception (see above), “We know it’s going to be hard, we know it’s going to be a slog, but we know that the trajectories are in our favour and we know that once you build on success and keep on building on it the returns improve each time you do it.”

Click for pdf of anniversary bikeography


Nowadays it’s almost impossible to appreciate just how bike-unfriendly Edinburgh was in 1977.   For all the problems, we’ve come a huge way since then!

  • If you’re not a member and you think we are worth it, we’d love you to join Spokes
  • Tell interested people about our anniversary materials and exhibitions, as above
  • Retweet our tweet about this article
  • See our history web page for many other Spokes historic links
  • Most important – contact your councillors or MSPs every so often about local or national cycling issues that concern you – either by email or, even better, visiting their surgery for a chat.  By contacting them, you not only raise a specific issue, but you add to their awareness that their voters want the maximum attention given to improving cycling conditions – and that helps maintain political support for decent cycling budgets.









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