The Ministry of Sports and Youth is trying to encourage more people to cycle in Cairo and Giza. According to a cabinet press release, the Cycling for Everyone initiative seeks to wean young people away from their dependence on fuel-based transport and improve their health and fitness while reducing pollution. As part of the scheme bicycles will be made available at a reasonable price and with easy payment terms.
Samir Al-Batikhi, of parliament’s Youth and Sports Committee, told Al-Ahram Weekly the initiative will initially target university and high school students in Cairo and Giza and be funded by the Ministry of Military Production.
“We remain concerned about driving habits in Egypt which means that cycle paths will be necessary,” said Al-Batikhi. “We also want to see awareness campaigns for drivers on how to deal with bikers.”
Major-General Nader Samir, head of the General Authority for Roads and Bridges, points out that cycle paths are already in place on some main thoroughfares such as the Cairo-Ain Sokhna road, and are planned for road links between Cairo and the New Administrative Capital.
Moetaz Bahieddin, founder of the Global Biking Initiative (GBI) Middle East, Africa and Asia, welcomed the scheme but also expressed concerns about road safety.
“The state of the streets is a major obstacle,” he said. “Some roads in Egypt need a mountain bike,” and while it is true there are already some cycle lanes they are often not respected. Bahieddin singled out microbus drivers as particular offenders.
“They drive fast and regularly trespass on the bike lane, putting people’s lives at risk.”
According to Bahieddin, a growing popularity of cycling among young people will help the scheme meet its targets, and it could be usefully rolled out in cities such as Port Said where bikes are a common sight on the streets.
“I sometimes use my brother’s bike though I’m planning to get my own,” says 19-year-old student Farida Ihab. Not only is cycling healthier and cheaper, Ihab says she often finds it quicker and more convenient than using public transport. It is especially useful, she says, for students who live close to their place of study.
“Cycling culture in Egypt is not bad. In Cairo they might mock you a little, but in Alexandria people on bicycles are a familiar sight,”' says Lamiaa Arafa, a 30-year old teacher who uses her bicycle for local journeys.
“I would consider using the bike for longer journeys,” she says, but would need the reassurance of service stations on the roads offering emergency repair services should the need arise.
The Ministry of Sports and Youth plans a press conference early in September to announce further details of the scheme.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 29 August, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly newpaper under the titile: On your bike