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FEATURE ❘ EGYPT


clothes pedalling his way at the crack of dawn on a creaking old machine, to start his day at some garage or construction site. Or the bike was a workhorse for the bakery rider with a tray of bread balanced skilfully on his head, weaving confidently in and out of the traffic. Though such riders are still a familiar part of the urban scene, these working cyclists are increasingly joined on the road by others with expensive new bikes and elegant designer sports gear, who ride in their spare time purely for the joy of it. Many who would never dream of commuting to work find happiness in the company of other cyclists, whether for a brief fun run along city streets, or a punishing long-distance ride through the desert.


When in 1988 American college teacher Edwin Crosswhite brought his elderly Motobecane road bike to Egypt and proposed to ride it in Cairo, everyone, including his Egyptian colleagues, said he was crazy. Turning a deaf ear to their


56 www.cyclingworldmag.com


warnings he took to cycling to class every day – and survived. Soon Crosswhite was teaching a course in ‘Effective Cycling’ to anyone who wanted to learn. By 1989 the class had given birth to a club, the Cairo Cyclists. From being mainly a group for Americans and other foreigners, the CCC has become an established part of Egyptian life. These days the Cairo Cyclists Club is home to hard-core long-distance racing cyclists and experienced triathletes, dedicated riders who think nothing of travelling 60 miles, at an average speed of 18 miles an hour, even in summer heat. Favourite rides are to Ein Sokhna (80 miles from Cairo), to Saqqara and to the Kattameya Observatory (90 miles). Though taxing, these outings take riders out onto quieter, safer roads well beyond the city limits. For those with the stamina to do it, they’re generally agreed to be a more pleasant experience than riding in the city. Egyptian online cycling groups now claim 20,000 members nationwide. Not all


these members are necessarily regular, or even active, cyclists – but the figures, if accurate, bear witness to a widespread interest in cycling that simply wasn’t there ten years ago. According to Alia Alloula, a spokesperson for the retailer 3agalMasr, her company now sells around 400 bikes in Egypt annually. As a leisure activity in its own right, cycling is drawing them in. The online campaign group Cycle Egypt promotes cycling as an environmentally friendly alternative to driving – a way of reducing traffic jams and pollution. Unfortunately, until their aim is achieved, cyclists have still to go where the four- wheeled vehicle is king. There are no cycle lanes in Egypt – and if there were, as one keen rider comments cynically (but no doubt truthfully), the minibus drivers would quickly turn them into car parks. Egypt’s cities are not ideal places for cycling. A recent government study by the Centre for Public Mobilization and Statistics


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