Monday, 1 December 2014

Calling all cyclists

Anyone who has ever wobbled on two wheels appreciates a good cycle shop. They've got the funny shaped spanners, the lycra shorts, and ten different kinds of cycle pump. They'll sell you a sit-up-and-beg or a sleek racer, and they won't just give it to you in pieces in a box; it'll actually work.
There are some great cycle-based social enterprises out there: cycle repair workers co-ops, Edinburgh Cycles Workers Co-op chain, and Roll for the Soul CIC (which is also a cafe) in Bristol. But in Somerset, the picture is more gloomy.
I've visited two cycle shops now that are closing, and there is a swathe of mid- to south- Somerset where substantial towns lack a specialist cycle dealer. Buyers for market town retail businesses are always few and far between, and years of underinvestment has made some a particularly unappealing proposition.
We always make the case for co-operative succession: workers, customers and the community banding together to buy out the proprietor, leaving a co-operative enterprise to deliver a valued local service in perpetuity.
But cycle shops are often run largely or solely by the proprietor, and the staff that there are may be more at home with a wrench and an allen key than with meetings and spreadsheets. They're going to need some help.
Could you be involved in building a chain of co-operatively run cycle shops - either as a customer or worker? If so, get in touch. With the numbers of people cycling rising steadily, there's an opportunity here.