Cycling instructor David Hilliard on how Turkish speakers in Enfield are embracing two wheels thanks to an award-winning community group
What makes someone with little interest in cycling decide to take on a bike ride of more than 2,000 miles – through eleven countries – from London to Istanbul? And how did this spawn an award-winning community group in Enfield?
It all started three years ago. Driving instructor Ozgur Korkmaz was in a bit of a rut, bored with his sedentary lifestyle and tired of doing the same old thing all the time. He decided to seek out a challenge, something that was outside his comfort zone that would really stretch him both mentally and physically.
He reflected on how, when he had originally come to the UK from Turkey, the journey had taken him four hours by plane. Ozgur started to wonder how long it would take by other means to make the journey. And so, the seed of the idea of a bike ride was sown. Despite attempts of friends and family to dissuade him, he eventually decided on cycling to Istanbul in 2018, despite never having cycled more than ten miles in his life.
Before his transcontinental trip, Ozgur could not have imagined that he would end up leading an initiative to make his Turkish-speaking community back home in North London – with its love of cars – get on bikes. However, Ozgur’s personal experience of riding across Europe opened his eyes to the benefits of cycling, and so it began.
Roll on three years and, on a typical Sunday morning, you will find Londra Bisiklet Kulubu (LBK) and its volunteers holding training sessions at the British Alevi Federation site in Edmonton, next to Churchfield Recreation Ground.
Using funding and resources from Transport for London (TfL) and Enfield Council, Ozgur and his team of volunteers have created a cycling hub which has 40 bikes available for training sessions, a facility for repairing bikes and a training area where cycle skills sessions take place.
Social media has played a significant role in helping the club reach out to North London’s Turkish-speaking population. It has sparked the imagination of a community that TfL and local authorities otherwise find difficult to reach.
Demand for training is very high. LBK provided cycle training for more then 125 women and 76 kids last year. The club also holds regular free Dr Bike sessions, repairing and servicing bikes, and in 2021 donated 32 bikes to low-income black, Asian and minority ethnic women, plus another 26 bikes to schools and community centres.
LBK recently won the ‘Growing Cycling’ award from London Cycling Campaign (LCC) and, after becoming a community partner with LCC, the group also received a donation of more than 150 new bikes.