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Bicicletta: Cairo Paves a Path for New Bike-Sharing System

30 July, 2017
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Bicycles are a common sight in Cairo’s streets and are used across all levels of society—from bread carriers to the cycling groups in Cairo’s upper class neighborhoods—but Egypt is making a new push to encourage cycling as an alternative means of transportation in its capital.

Cairo Governor Atef Abdel-Hamid signed a memorandum of understanding with UN Habitat Egypt Programme Manager Rania Hedaya in July for a new bike-sharing system project titled Bicicletta that has a price tag of $1.5 million. The system will reportedly be inaugurated in May 2019. 

The first phase of the project will be funded by the Drosos Foundation, which is based in Zurich but has offices in Casablanca and Cairo in order to serve its projects across the Middle East. According to the foundation, Bicicletta “would reduce barriers [preventing] young people from accessing employment, education and other opportunities as well as have a positive impact on health and the environment”. 

The new bike-sharing system would give Cairenes greater access to bicycles to be able to commute from point A to B or simply exercise. In a city with the fastest growing population in the world that is plagued by congested streets and overcrowded metro stations, adding a bicycle to the list of transportation options may seem trivial, but it has also become necessary.

“Encouraging citizens to use bicycles as a safe and inexpensive means of transport is approved by leading figures in Egypt,” Abdel-Hamid said. “President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has himself participated in several bicycling events and has strongly promoted the use of bicycles.”

As Abdel-Hamid pointed out, Al-Sisi has been a heavy promoter of bicycling and has peddled his way through Cairo’s streets to promote cycling in order to save Egypt money on fuel and fight obesity.

The bike-sharing project aims to encourage the same cycling culture Al-Sisi sought to promote, but wants to do so through the understanding that not everyone can afford a bike, particularly Egypt’s youth, the main target of the program.

“We plan to set the lanes crossing through the main squares in Cairo, through to al-Alfy, al-Azbakeya, the cornice, as well as Manial. We are stressing on the areas where youth usually gather, like universities, since they are our main target audience,” Abdel-Hamid said. 

The first phase of the project will see the construction of several bike-sharing stations in downtown Cairo in locations with easy access to the area’s metro and bus stations. Initially, 300 bicycles will be set in the stations for use.

Unfortunately, there are many hazards on the road that may scare off potential peddlers. During the summer months, temperatures in Cairo often hit over the 40 degrees Celsius mark, an intolerable temperature further compounded by the heavy pollution that rests over the city and the car fumes flowing through the streets. Not to mention, Egypt is not just infamous for crowded lanes, but also for hectic driving, which poses a threat to life as accidents happen far too frequently. According to the World Health Organization, an average of 12,000 people a year are killed in Egypt as a result of road accidents.

Despite such obstacles, bicycle fiends have proved in the past that they are capable of circumnavigating roadblocks. A great number of Facebook groups, like Cycle Egypt and Cairo Bike Scene, have popped up in recent years that promote bicycling as a hobby and organize regular group cycling events.

Bike-sharing also isn’t new to Egypt. A number of startups and apps have been promoting bike-sharing systems of their own, including Cycliste and Baddel, the ladder of which recently helped launch a bike-sharing platform in El Gouna in collaboration with Commercial International Bank (CIB). El-Gouna’s bike-sharing system opened in April and is being touted as the first of its kind in the Middle East and Africa.

Photo credit: MLvB Photography 



Tags bicycle cycling Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi UN Habitat Egypt Drosos Foundation Development