Long before the official gathering time of 8am, people of all ages poured into Zamalek in Cairo on Friday to participate in the Dutch embassy’s third annual Orange Bike initiative, a cycling tour of the island.
The streets were dotted with participants of all ages wearing bright shades of orange, excited to take part in the bike rally despite the brisk morning weather.
At 8am, participants were invited for tea of coffee at the embassy, and at 9am the tour took off from Ibn Zinki Street, winding its way along a pre-planned route until it concluded at 10:30am back in Ibn Zinki.
Gerard Steeghs, the Dutch ambassador, told Ahram Online that the number of people is very encouraging.
"The two thousand give-away t-shirts and the available–for-rent-bicycles have been running out since the very early morning. It is a beautiful sight to see people encouraged to participate in activities that shed light on a healthier lifestyle," he said.
Ayman El-Sherbiny, public diplomacy officer at the embassy, said that each year has seen an increasing number of participants, with 400 in 2012 and 900 last year.
"We have more and more people offering a helping hand with the organisation, like Global Biking Initiative members, qualified first aider Yomna Khalil, and others," he said.
Many parents had brought their children to the event.
"It is a beautiful day and a great weather, and it is nice to participate as a family," Reinke from the Netherlands told Ahram Online as she rode a bike customised to carry her toddler.
"Many of my friends witnessed the previous rides and told me how thrilling and refreshing it was, so I decided to participate," commented Noha Baraka, an Egyptian participant.
Most people had brought along their own bikes, but some came hoping to rent a limited number available on site by bike providers Biskeletta. The event was so popular that the rented bikes had run out by 6:30am.
"I thought coming as early as seven in the morning could guarantee that I find myself a bike. Unfortunately it didn’t," said Hisham Samir, who only had a chance to participate after another cyclist rented his rented bike early.
The embassy stressed that the cycling tour aims to promote healthier lifestyles and to shed light on the use of bikes as a cheaper and less polluting form of transportation to many of the methods favoured by Egyptian commuters.
Despite Cairo’s notorious traffic, cycling has yet to take off as a popular way to get around, particularly among wealthier Cairenes.
In recent years, eco-friendly and healthy living initiatives have been gaining popularity in Cairo. The success of the Orange Bike initiative shows that enthusiasm for such initiatives is still high.