Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1272, (26 November - 2 December 2015)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1272, (26 November - 2 December 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Cairo turns orange

The fourth Orange Bike Day saw 5,000 cyclists on the streets of downtown Cairo, reports Inas Mazhar

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The fourth Orange Bike Day was organised by the Embassy of The Netherlands in Egypt with the support of Egypt’s Global Biking initiative. With this cycling tour, the embassy continues its effort in promoting bicycles as a clean and efficient means of transport.

The Netherlands is one of the forerunners in the use of bicycles and the adaption of the cycling infrastructure to lessen traffic and pollution within cities.

Dutch Ambassador Gerard Steegths said that the Orange Bike Day has been growing since its beginning in 2012. “Last year, around 3,000 cyclists participated in the event while this year we had around 5,000 participants cycling in Zamalek and Tahrir in Cairo. This shows that the Egyptian people’s stress in cycling increases every year. It proves that cycling as a sport is becoming more and more popular. Even your president has been seen many times on a bike, and there are widely spread initiatives related to biking,” the ambassador said.

The day before the race, the embassy organised a seminar at Cairo University on cycling as an alternate mode of transportation in urban environments. During the seminar, transportation experts and stakeholders from Egypt and Holland shared their scientific knowledge and experience on integrating the use of bicycles in urban traffic policy and presented their initiatives in cycling in Egypt.

Steegths expressed his confidence that Egypt is on track for a broader role of bicycles in urban traffic despite the many challenges ahead. “In the past years, and now in this seminar, we have made an excellent beginning. The interest is there. Now it’s time for the change.”

He contended that the question of finding a more efficient way of transportation is the same everywhere, adding that reaching a solution for traffic problems is never easy. “Today, we focus on the bicycle, which for The Netherlands is one of the most used means of transportation. In The Netherlands, driving a bike is safe; cyclists are well protected and bicycle lanes are found everywhere. People are actively discouraged to use cars and get on bikes because of high fuel costs and blocking cars from entering city centres along with the wide availability of rental bikes.”

Steegths stated that in Holland, cars were the preferred method of commuting up until the seventies. After that, people came to the conclusion that the car was not always the most optimal solution. New policies were developed to encourage the use of bicycles which have contributed to The Netherlands becoming the cycling nation it currently is. “In The Netherlands, we have a total of 18 million bicycles. In fact, 84 per cent of citizens above four years old own a bike. In the latest count we had an estimated number of 35,000 kilometres of cycling paths. In total the Dutch cover a distance of 15 billion kilometres a year.”

Steegths said the usage of bicycles comes with questions and “some struggles”. However, he added, since Holland is one of the forerunners in the use of bicycles and adaptation of the necessary infrastructure, it has a lot of experience that is shared in other parts of the world. “From this point of view, we hope to be of some kind of inspiration to Egypt. By organising this seminar, we aspire to trigger the debate on what is possible in Egypt.”

Steegths also stated that Orange Bike Day comes in the context of showing in practice that cycling is a viable alternative for urban transport. He added that the event also shows that “we are not intimidated by terrorism and violence and that we can still get together as a community for good causes such as sustainability and a healthy environment”.

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