November 2018

#SpokesMtg … Diversity & Opportunity

Growing opportunities enabling more and more categories of people to get about by bike were a top feature of our ‘Diversity Rules’ public meeting

However, as Dave du Feu also pointed out when introducing the 80-strong meeting, there are also barriers to more people cycling, notably inadequate infrastructure – lovely offroad paths which are problematic or impossible for some types of bike (and wheelchair) due to steps or to chicanes which are badly designed or unnecessary; and of course the huge problem of main roads without separated cycleroutes.

It was clear from several of the speakers, whose organisations are introducing people to cycling for the first time (or after many non-pedalling years), that currently the offroad paths are the only option to inspire sufficient confidence for novices to start using a bike – and it is often a long time, if ever, before they graduate to using much of the road system.

Despite the problems, however, many categories of people who had not cycled in the past are now being enabled to do so, thanks to organisations such as those on our panel, and thanks to growing technical and political developments such as e-bikes, bike share, cargo bikes , funding for adaptive-bike libraries and the (albeit slow) improvements in infrastructure.

Our panel itself represented diversity of age, gender and ethnicity. From left to right, Alison Johnstone MSP, Cllr Mark Brown, Ruth Mutyambizi, David Liddell, Anna Canning, Marjan van de Weg, David Glover, Archie Goddard, Morag Bryce. [Picture is a still from the meeting video – link below]

Asked to sum up their thoughts at the end of the meeting, the panel was highly enthusiastic about the extent and success of existing initiatives to broaden cycling opportunities which had been presented at the meeting, and the ideas for new initiatives and new collaborations which had emerged from other speakers and from the audience QA.

But there was also a strong consensus that much more could be done if government funding was increased – crucially for infrastructure, but also to expand the coverage and extent of opportunities available through organisations such as those here, through workplace and school initiatives, and through the growing possibilities from e-bikes, adaptive bikes and cargo bikes.

As always, we are delighted when politicians turn up to sit and participate as part of the audience, even though they have not been invited to speak.  At this meeting we had in the audience…

Meeting resources

What you can do now

  • Check out the article carefully.  If you wish to take up and push any of the points, contact your councillors or MSPs as appropriate – find Edinburgh councillors at  and all the politicians who represent you at
  • Retweet the tweet of this article.

Speakers & Contacts

NB – there is more info and contact details in the SpokesWorker which accompanied the meeting.

Morag Bryce  Ageing Well, Edinburgh Leisure  Bike rides and cycling skills courses for ‘older adults,’ mainly offroad; bikes provided if needed.  Presentation.

Cllr Chas Booth tweeted: Packed hall hearing from Dr Morag Bryce from Ageing Well about how she learned to ride a bike age 62 and is now a cycle trainer for other older people taking up cycling for the first time. 

Archie Goddard  Senior pupil from Knox Academy [in his personal capacity].

Archie said: Cycling is a mode of transport but also freedom – it is important for young people to be able to get out and clear their heads, with mental health being an important issue for young people.

Note: advice and funding to help schools [secondary and primary] become bike-friendly are available from Sustrans, I-Bike and from Cycling Scotland, Cycle-Friendly Schools.

David Glover  All-Ability Cycling, Edinburgh Enabling people of any age, background or ability to use bikes.  Wide range of adaptive bikes for people with physical problems or to ride with a buddy.  VIE Velo tandem cycling club to enable people with visual impairments to get cycling.  Presentation.

Kirsty Lewin tweetedDavid Glover from – it’s about fun, enjoyment, bringing families together, removing physical barriers (there’s no end to the benefits of cycling!)

Marjan van de Weg  Bikes for Refugees  Refurbishing & distributing bikes to refugees and asylum seekers across Scotland, enabling access to essential services and to new friends.  PresentationOwn tweet.

Cllr Chas Booth tweeted: Marjan from speaking about the transformation that a bike can bring to an asylum seeker struggling to survive on £5 a day.

Anna Canning  Woodland Wheels  Leisurely bike rides to Scottish woodlands, mostly Edinburgh & Glasgow off-road, particularly aimed at diverse and under-represented communities. Bikes provided if needed.  Presentation.

Anna said: We are working with diverse ethnic and social groups in Edinburgh and Glasgow, breaking down barriers.  Meeting other people, discovering cycling and cycleroutes, and incorporating sociable woodland activities.

David Liddell  West Lothian Bike Library  Helping everyone use a bike, regardless of income, background or ability. Recycled bikes, e-bikes, adaptive bikes, rides, hire, bike maintenance, anything else to get people on bikes.

Kirsty Lewin tweeted: West Lothian Bike Library – a social enterprise with a simple but hugely important mission – to break down barriers that confront people who want to get out cycling – well done all!

Ruth Mutyambizi  Edinburgh & Lothians Regional Equality Council ELREC works to eliminate discrimination of all kinds. Activities include a bike club with social rides, bike loan, training etc and a pledge to use low carbon transport whenever possible.

Kirsty Lewin tweeted: From being unable to ride a bike to going shopping on one and supporting others to get started too – a lovely success story from

Cllr Mark Brown  Spokes competition prize-winner for his return to cycling after 20 years, thanks to his e-bike (“Horatio”). PresentationOwn tweet.

Graeme Hart tweetedHoratio, the tale so far. An engaging presentation from on his Gazelle Vento C7 HMB, on which he’s now done 1500 miles and lost a chunk of weight! A very enlightening and uplifting meeting this evening.

Note: Info and advice on e-bikes available in our e-bike webpage and leaflet.

Selected topics from the QA / panel discussion

The QA was chaired by Spokes member Alison Johnstone MSP.

Suzanne Forup tweeted: Interesting points about supporting confidence, developing safe route planning knowledge and using ‘critical mass/safety in numbers’.. whilst we campaign for investment in infrastructure  

Edinburgh’s Just Eat public bike hire scheme

  • Should adaptive bikes also be available, if we are serious about equalities?
  • One problem is the variety of types of adaptive bike.

Bikes in buses and taxis

  • Important so you have assurance of getting home if it becomes wet/ windy/ dark and/or you have a breakdown
  • Bikes are allowed in Edinburgh Black Taxis, but not the private hire ones.  Also on some buses and, commonly, bikes folded and in a bag.
  • Bike provision should be standard on longer-distance buses, possibly with an outside rack – this is standard in some countries, eg. New Zealand and California.
  • The imminent new 100-seater Lothian Buses appear to have been designed with only one combined wheelchair/buggy space, compared to 2 in existing buses.  Instead there should be a large flexible space, also allowing a bike when no wheelchair present.

Graduating to the roads

  • New cyclists are mainly introduced/ trained by the speaker organisations using offroad paths and very quiet roads.   Do they later graduate to cycling where there is significant traffic?
  • Some people (including 2 of the speakers) do gain that confidence, particularly where the organisation keeps reinforcing the necessary skills
  • But many remain too worried to cycle except on offroad paths or very quiet roads
  • People should not be encouraged to cycle beyond their level of competence and confidence.

Safety of offroad paths

  • Many people are scared of using the offroad routes once it is dark – which happens mid-afternoon in the winter
  • Lighting helps a lot, but many main paths are already lit, and it can still be scary
  • Ideal solution is safe infrastructure on main roads, even if you prefer the quiet offroad routes when it is light.

Design of offroad paths

  • It is only when you get a bike, or a wheelchair or buggy, that you fully realise the problems resulting from chicanes, steps and other barriers to accessibility

Bike maintenance

  • Should people new to cycling be trained to maintain their bike, repair punctures, etc?  [A lengthy correspondence followed on twitter].
  • Several groups and bike-friendly schools do offer maintenance training
  • However, there is no expectation that you repair your car, so why  your bike, unless you enjoy doing so? – it is just a different means of transport
  • In Netherlands it is normal to use your local bike shop unless you are enthusiastic about bike maintenance.   In Amsterdam there are ~600 bike shops compared to ~30 in Edinburgh.

Driver behaviour

  • For all the problems, driver behaviour feels somewhat better in Edinburgh than in many cities (Dundee was cited)
  • The citywide 20mph has helped
  • Police closepass operations have helped (an East Lothian example was cited, where police had also explained and publicised the operation to a local community)
  • Most importantly, we need a culture where all or most drivers also cycle, as is the case in the Netherlands.





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