Traffic in the capital of Egypt, Cairo, can be stressful and time-consuming. It takes me over an hour of driving in the afternoon to cover the same distance that takes twenty minutes early in the morning, on a daily basis. The problem of Cairo’s heavy traffic jams stems mainly from the large number of cars and the absence of appropriate parking spaces.
But Egyptian youth wanted to do something about it, so they came up with an easy solution: cycling.
Riding bicycles not only helps reduce the huge number of cars but can also save a city up to $25 trillion and reduce transportation-related CO2 emissions by 10 percent, according to a new study by the University of California, Davis, and the New York-based Institute for Transportation & Development Policy.
The new fuel-saving and eco-friendly solution has been adapted in recent months by many Egyptian students for its convenience and benefits. Although bicycles have been used in Egypt for years, mainly by boys and delivery guys, it was never as popular among young adults as it is now and it wasn’t encouraging either. Young girls would get verbally harassed riding bikes in the streets.
But during the past few years, cycling became a more acceptable and much-needed idea as road blockages resulting from subway expansions and security concerns worsened traffic congestion. This was the last straw for many. Students who lived somewhat close to their schools started using bikes to commute.
Both male and female cyclists started forming groups and going on rides around and near Cairo, encouraging others to join. Even those who could not ride and did not own bicycles showed enough interest to turn these small groups into popular cycling clubs.
For over a year now, there has been at least one organized ride per week. One of the most popular rides is scheduled for every Friday morning by a group called Go Bike that promotes cycling. The special thing about these rides is that organizers set a specific meeting place where amateurs can either rent bikes or join for free if they already have their own. The whole group would then set off, followed by a truck loaded with bikes in case one broke down or someone else wanted to join along the way.
In such a large group, girls don’t worry about harassment and nobody worries about crossing roads or being left behind.
Reham Ahmad, a 23-year-old art student, has been in the group for a while now. “Cycling every Friday within groups is a really good way to get rid of negative energy and meet new friends,” she told Global Young Voices about her experience. “It encourages me to use my bicycle every other day to quickly get to my classes and escape traffic.”
Cycling has also given a chance for Ahmad to exercise as she couldn’t find time for it before joining the group. “Since I don’t play sports, cycling is a good alternative that’s available to me,” she said. “It is an easy and cheap way to stay healthy, and we want to spread the idea of riding bicycles in our community because it is eco-friendly and saves a lot of otherwise wasted time.”
The next step, cyclists are now hoping, would be assigning a separate lane for them on the roads. They’re well aware that this now-missing safety requirement would ensure their welfare and allow them to enjoy the daily rides.