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Cycling still has to fight so many battles to be accepted as a sustainable urban mode of transport in Egypt. Being not socially accepted, cycling is perceived as not suitable for respectful people.
On the one hand, the Egyptian society is very conservative and, historically, cycling always had a bad reputation: those who cannot afford buying a car, use bikes.
People even refuse to work as bicycle mechanics or merchants because the community will disdain them.
On the other hand, and in order to promote the bike as a mode of transport for all, Egyptian cities should develop a comprehensive system of cycling lanes and safe sidewalks. There are no bike lanes in Egypt and streets are extremely dangerous for cyclers. The sole exceptions are Fayoum and Shebin El-Kom, two pilot project bike lanes promoted by the Sustainable Transport Project for Egypt led by UN-Habitat and GEF.
Florida Bikes and Cycle Egypt are an interesting example of a marketing reaction to the Egyptian negative connotation of cycling.
Started in 2008, Cycle Egypt initiative was launched with the purpose of promoting many activities to enhance the cycling culture. Weekly cycling ride are run every Friday to encourage people bring their bikes into the street and let citizens get used to seeing bikers, and especially girls, riding bicycles.
Cycle Egypt aims to spread the idea of using bicycles as mean of transportation as they are less expensive than cars, non-polluting and help avoid traffic. They organise awareness sessions for bicycles riders and car drivers to make both of them understand how to respect and care about each other on the road. They also try to contact government officials to ask for more bicycles. Nowadays, Cycle Egypt is one of the biggest group for cycling amateurs in Egypt.
A Cycle Egypt excursion in Kafr El-Sheikh
In 2011, Ahmed El Heity, the founder Cycle Egypt, created Florida Bikes start-up for bikes’ importation. Due to the difficulty of finding good bikes in the country Florida Bikes is importing bikes, especially from Spain, and more than 20000 bikes have already been introduced in the Egyptian market. The start-up has been working in cooperation with other companies and merchants to change the regular models of bicycles available in Egypt and introduce new models used worldwide.
Unfortunately, there is no bike production in Egypt and the costs of a good bicycle is relatively high compared to local salaries. The cost of one bicycle can go from 200 to 300 euros that means two months of salary for most Egyptians.
In 2012, Cycle Egypt launched a Monthly Rental System, which works as a monthly bike-sharing system. Members fill an application and choose a bike to rent for a very cheap price starting from only 5 euros per month. This monthly rental system, started with a park of only fifty bicycles and today it includes more than 200. Many other bike companies became interested and started to work in partnership with Cycle Egypt. Thanks to the success of the initiative, many sponsors are supporting the project today and their contribution allow to maintain a low rental cost per month.
Cycle Egypt wishes to take the initiative further and establish more activities. Currently, they are planning to establish cooperation projects with European entities in order to organise professional training courses for Egyptian young people equipping them with proper qualification and improving the reputation of the cycling market in Egypt. The courses aim prioritize the training of:
This European qualifications will allow many people to find job opportunities with higher salaries since qualified mechanics are really needed.
A big social constrain is that giving its negative connotation and lack of professionals, the progress of cycling in the country has been delayed but many initiatives, associations and start-ups are making huge efforts to boost the sector as quickly as possible. Certainly, cycling will have a major role in upgrading urban mobility systems in Egypt and decision-makers and transport planners need to start considering a cycling-inclusive mobility systems.