Independent Design Magazine

Cycling in Egypt: The Community approach

Cycling in Egypt: The Community approach

Everyday Bike users in Egypt Linesmag

How does Egypt handle 55% emissions out of its transportation sector? the answer is simple: it depends. The national direction for instance aims at E-mobility and better networks of public transport. On the other side of the spectrum, this article focuses on displaying the community approach in sustainable mobility. We particularly present some community initiatives that promote and support cycling in Egypt. They follow the same concept as that of Sumantran, Fine & Gonsalvez, calling for less cars instead of cleaner ones.

Cycling is not a new concept in Egypt. Vendors, employees, and students use bicycles daily as means of transport. This begs the question: why are many initiatives promoting the cycling culture? Because as much as everyday transport does include bikes, less than 5% of the Egyptian population use it.

Since cycling benefits the planet as much as our well-being, each initiative in this article conveys their own profiles and causes. Some are urban-based, targeting cycling infrastructure, such as bike lanes and parking spots availability. Other initiatives address the social stigmas on cycling in the Egyptian streets. They also work on gender equality and integration, encouraging cycling policies and more.

Cycling Initiatives in Egypt

Tabdeel (Pedaling)

Tabdeel urban initiative started in 2018 to support pedestrian and bicycle rights to the streets. Their vision includes safe and friendly streets, that accommodate to bikes as much as they serve cars. They focus on community participation, and create common grounds between bicycle users, the social perception and the public sector.

University Bridge Street Art Linesmag
"Lets ride bikes" Photo Courtesy: Tabdeel

They also work on bridging the gap between cycling conceptions abroad to the Egyptian context by translating some urban releases on the subject. For example, they translated the movie “Bikes vs Cars” in cooperation with the Spanish consulate in Alexandria.

On another note, the Urban Lab they prepared in hand with Bibliotheca Alexandrina is one of Tabdeel’s highlights. The lab resulted in bike lanes network proposals on Alexandria’s Waterfront. They presented those proposals to the public using VR technology. Additionally, they presented them to national and international bodies at the “African cities drive Sustainable Development” exhibit.

Along their projects, Tabdeel cooperates with different types of stakeholders, such as Alexandria governorate and Bibliotheca Alexandrina. More international collaborations include EU and Car-free Cities Alliance.

Running a progressive initiative like Tabdeel comes with its challenges. The public perception regards cycling as a recreational mode instead of a transportation option. The lack of data on bike accidents, and public sector communication limitations are also some more restrictions they face.

Cairo Cycling Geckos

A unique experience is Cairo Cycling Geckos. As cycling groups in general include women support, CCG is a female driven initiative. They aim at creating a benchmark for women to express themselves and explore their capabilities.

Cairo Cycling Geckos family Linesmag
Photo Courtesy: Cairo Cycling Geckos

They spread a safe cycling environment for female riders across all neighborhoods of all social classes. While the Geckos riders face pollution, traffic and lack of infrastructure as any other cycling group, sexual harassment poses another concern.

The Geckos promote their culture through many causes and activities. Their charity rides target social inclusion for refugees and under-privileged neighborhoods. All year long, they ride to distribute different goods and services, based on periodical occasions.

“I felt the girls wanted to help so bad and it amazed me to see a group of fasting women doing such a hectic activity after 16 hours of fasting to feed other people!”

–  A Cairo Cycling Geckos rider

Since 2018, CCG started organizing cycling trips to other governorates in their attempt to reach many cities around the country. They rode to Fyoum, Banha, Shareaya, and Tanta. Cairo Cycling Geckos riders’ experience ranges from one to the other. Some believe it made them explore their hometowns better, and others think it made them face Cairo’s streets with more confidence.

Cairo Cycling Gecko female riders family Linesmag
Photo Courtesy: Cairo Cycling Geckos

Their partner Bescletta provides bikes for the initiative since it started. Plus, they cooperate with the Swedish, Indian, and German embassies, as well as Badrashin Institution, TUBerlin Campus El Gouna and Cairo Climate Talks.

Go Bike

Mohamad Samy founded Go Bike in 2011. Go Bike merges sports, culture, and heritage together to advocate cycling. They also teach bike riding in their academy, and act as a purchase consultant. In order to reach its goal, they spread out to other cities such as Fayoum, Dahab, Alexandria, and more. In addition, some cultural rides included Abdeen Palace and the Egyptian Museum.

Setting up those rides is not an easy task; it faces some hiccups every now and then. Sometimes, traffic control changes the approved routes in the last minute, which calls for plan B preparation for each ride. With the growing magnitude of wide bridges and roads, cycling is getting more unsafe.

Go Bike cooperates with many partners, such as the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Another was their Alexandria annual ride in hand with the Swedish Institute from 2014-2019. This environmental ride aimed at raising awareness for climate change. Additionally, Barcelona’s SWITCH-MED recognized Go Bike as one of the best Mediterranean environmental initiatives in 2018.

Go Bike and Swedish institute Environmental rides Linesmag
Photo Courtesy: Go Bike

Nowadays, Go Bike organizes cultural rides in COVID-19 time, with all precautions intact. As social distancing is part of the rides even before Corona, sanitizing is their main task now. They visited Baron Palace, Moez Street, and Korba till now.

Sekketak Khadra (Your Green Way)

Another urban-based initiative is Sekketak Khadra. It provides bike parking on multiple spots across the city. They select their locations based on high cycling spots. Mohamad Samy established Sekketak Khadra in parallel with Go Bike. He hopes to encourage more people to ride their bikes daily as long as parking is available.

They first started installing bike racks in Heliopolis and Downtown Cairo. They make sure the racks are easy to find by installing parking signage. Moreover, Sekketak Khadra initiative installs outdoor sports equipment in public spaces.

Cycle Egypt

Following the Egyptian cycling federation, Cycle Egypt is an initiative that compliments the above-mentioned ones in encouraging bike riding across the country. In 2008 they started in Alexandria, and expanded to Cairo in 2009. After 2012, they retracted from Cairo, but intend to get back into the Egyptian capital very soon.

Bicycle rides with Cycle Egypt Linesmag
Photo Courtesy: Cycle Egypt

In order to promote cycling, Cycling Egypt organizes weekly rides to break down the fear of riding bikes on the streets in the first place. They cooperate with national and international organizations, including Belgium and French ones.

Bicycle rides with Cycle Egypt Linesmag
Photo Courtesy: Cycle Egypt

Furthermore, they make serious efforts to mainstream cycling on daily basis. For instance, they make bike-renting offers for daily and monthly use, where it starts at 100 EGP per month. In parallel, they teach bicycle riding, and organize university and school events to reach out to all sorts of students. They want everyone to realize the benefits of cycling commuting.

Cycle Egypt’s members enjoy their experience with the initiative. They also highlight some limitations beyond parking spots’ unavailability, safety and lack of bike lanes. Their work in universities and schools, and their own bike usage uncovered other challenges.

Bikes are banned in some universities and schools, as well as public transportation. Hence, bike riders cannot commute daily using their bicycles, or merge their long rides with public networks. They also face discrimination by traffic officers, car drivers or parking garages in other occasions.

Scarce and Poor bike lanes condition Linesmag
Photo Courtesy: Tabdeel

Even though bike riders face multiple challenges every day, the community approach displays a vivid experience in pictures. They are making an impact in the Egyptian culture, and are planning to jump-start again in adjustment with COVID-19 sooner than later.

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Nada is an Architect & Urban Researcher. Based in Hurghada, and inspired by its sea & vivid mountains. She seeks local innovations along the Egyptian Red Sea coast, since our communities are the best designer for their own contexts.