When David Pitcher stepped onto a plane in Germany five years ago with a gift for his two-year-old son in hand – a balance bike bequeathed by a friend whose child had grown out of it – he had no idea then that he would end up where he is now, running Wheely Tots, a registered charity whose aim is to produce healthy, confident and resilient children.
Every Wednesday at 4 pm, come rain or shine, you’ll find toddlers in hi-vis vests and helmets on balance bikes with their parents on the path by the Redmond Community Centre. They sing songs, adorn the pavement in chalk drawings and develop the skills to ride confidently and safely. The sessions, which are also on at different times in Finsbury Park and Lordship Recreation Ground, are paid for with donations, and free places are available, so every toddler is welcome. ‘A session for us is all about getting the families to meet each other,’ says David. ‘It’s community development – we just do it through the medium of cycling.’
Through also offering the opportunity to pay a donation and borrow a bike that can then be passed on and traded up as the child grows out of it, families come together to exchange bikes, equipment and ideas – as well as building friendships.
Wheely Tots has proved hugely successful in the area – ‘This was a hobby for me, now it’s also a job,’ says David – and it is expanding. A pop-up Family Cycling showroom is currently open at the Castle Climbing Centre, where children and adults can take part in workshops, try out bikes and enjoy the benefits of David’s passion and expertise (he’s a qualified cycle instructor and bike mechanic, as well as having insider knowledge on some of the best cycle routes in London).
It couldn’t have happened anywhere else. ‘Simon Donovan and the Manor House Development Trust have allowed us to test ideas, to breathe – to overcome all the things that constrain you when you have an idea. They’ve been amazing,’ he says.
Woodberry Down is an area of such change and regeneration, and we’re just pleased to be part of that mix.QUOTE: David Pitcher, Wheely Tots
For the last word, perhaps it’s best to heed the feelings of the Tots themselves. ‘We can see the reservoir, the Shard and the cranes during our sessions by the community centre,’ says David, ‘and the little people absolutely love that – it’s such an exciting area to them.’