Giving cyclists confidence

David Hilliard helps residents learn to love riding on two wheels

David Hilliard is a cycling instructor with London Cycling Campaign
David Hilliard is a cycling instructor with Enfield Cycling Campaign

When ‘Mini Holland’ was launched seven years ago, David Hilliard saw the opportunity to boost cycling in a borough traditionally dominated by car drivers.

Mini Holland brought cycling infrastructure to London boroughs that previously lacked such facilities, helping to spark a shift among residents from four wheels to two. David cycled to his office at Canary Wharf – 15 miles away – and wanted to help others ditch their car.

Recognising that many people lacked confidence to get on their bikes, since 2014 David has helped hundreds of Enfield residents to cycle with confidence as part of Enfield Cycling Campaign’s (ECC) training programme.

“It was a lot of small groups, families, schools,” he says. “The biggest buzz now is if I see children using the bike lanes or older people doing their shopping. That is what I want to do – to make it easier and more comfortable for people to get on a bike.”

Among David’s students was a journalist from Afghanistan who had never ridden a bike before but who, under his tutelage, was soon able to cycle from Southgate to her job at the BBC. Another was a doctor who wanted to cycle to North Middlesex Hospital but hadn’t sat on a bike for 25 years.

“Seeing her [the doctor] on the bike and then her saying she had been missing out – it is a great thing to be involved in helping people like that.”

After being made redundant last year, David became a full-time cycling instructor. Recently he has been leading ECC’s ‘Cycle Buddies’ scheme for new riders and working with community groups such as the British Alevi Federation. “It’s important to look at the barriers to getting people cycling,” says David. “One of them is whether they see other people who look like them ride a bike, people they can relate to.”

David was nominated as an ‘Enfield Community Hero’ by Laurie Meister, who said she was “afraid to cycle and use the cycle lanes” before meeting him. She wanted to also thank Jill Warren and Sarah Horne for leading a series of women’s rides in the borough.

Enfield Community Heroes

This article is the latest in our ‘Enfield Community Heroes’ series, sponsored by Edmonton Green Shopping Centre. Dispatch readers are welcome to nominate their own local hero – someone who has gone above and beyond to help support the local community. Simply email your nomination to [email protected].