In spite of the efforts being made to extend the public transport system in Cairo and Egypt as a whole, private cars are still the country’s main means of transport.
Greater Cairo, home to one fifth of Egypt’s population and nearly 19 million people, with this figure expected to grow to 24 million by 2027 according to the World Bank, is seeing the completion of new phases of the metro lines that are currently in progress and ongoing projects like the new electric train system, the monorail, and the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system on the Cairo Ring Road, for example.
Yet, because cars still dominate, the government is also constructing new roads to keep up with the rapid increase in the number of private cars and trucks in order to reduce the problem of traffic congestion.
Moreover, according to Ministry of Health statistics, over 4,000 deaths and over 25,000 injuries were caused by car accidents in 2020, and one initiative has now decided to act in a bid to reverse such figures.
The Nada Foundation for Safe Egyptian Roads is a NGO under the supervision of the Ministry of Social Solidarity that aims to promote the cause of road safety and safer transport in Egypt. Since its establishment in August 2014, the foundation has been trying to reduce traffic accidents on roads all over Egypt.
“In 2021, the Nada Foundation in collaboration with Tabdeel, an organisation that spreads awareness about environmentally friendly alternatives, and the Cairo transport authorities stepped up work to assist communities that want a safer street environment and to encourage safer walking, cycling, and collective or so-called non-motorised mobility, thus improving conditions for vulnerable road-users as well as having a positive impact on the environment and the quality of life for all,” said Shehab Abu Zeid, programme manager at the Nada Foundation and coordinator of its Safe Roads for All initiative.
“The group places a special emphasis on road-users at risk like pedestrians, cyclists, users of public transport, the elderly, children, and people with disabilities, as well as those driving two-wheeled vehicles,” he added.
For Mahmoud Atef, a Cairo resident in his mid-30s who has chosen to cycle through the city’s often heavy traffic, the initiative is very welcome, given the obstacles he faces. “The main problem is that there are no designated lanes for bicycles and that puts cyclists at high risk. For car drivers, a bicycle is an extra object on the road that he or she finds it hard to make room for or respect. We don’t have a culture of cycling in Cairo, unsurprisingly in a city with a huge number of cars,” he said.
“Our group is working to collect evidence that can help government and other actors understand the nature of the problem, find solutions, and develop effective strategies,” said Abu Zeid. “It is also bringing to the table the perspectives of the affected communities.”
The idea started with an initiative by Ahmed Shelbaya, CEO and co-founder of the Nada Foundation. “He believes in a collaborative approach among all the stakeholders involved in mobility in general and safe mobility in particular,” Abu Zeid said, adding that in 2018 the Nada Foundation had also tried to set up a group of major private-sector companies that would work to improve road safety, but for various reasons its formation was not completed.
“It was in 2021 that the idea of establishing the alliance came back to him, and he decided to form the group with a limited number of institutions as the nucleus of a more inclusive and extensive alliance in the future,” Abu Zeid said.
Its main objectives include translating visions put forward by the UN and others into national plans such as Egypt’s Vision 2030 and helping to participate in the decision-making process in Egypt by focusing on road-users who are most at risk, ensuring the rights of those who often do not get their fair share of attention in the planning of public space, and helping people to enjoy safer and more efficient mobility and healthier public space.
This is being done through the study and documentation of cyclist and pedestrian routes and the design of streets, as well as by coordinating with the authorities in order to achieve a greater balance of roads and pedestrian areas in cities and to plan them to be more suitable for cycling and walking.