Painting the cycling scene (Beirut style)

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Beirut is an outdoor city. If there is anything Beirut is good at, it is street life, street art and street congestions. But recently the city is trying to reinvent its cycling culture on its own terms. The cycling activists of Beirut are using the city’s mature street art culture to mobilize for the newly born cycling culture. The Chain Effect is a collective started in 2014 with three friends painting murals about cycling around Beirut. Soon after, they have created a label “Beirut is more beautiful by bike” and they are making sure that this sounds true when you cycle Beirut’s neighbourhoods looking for the colourful walls with bicycle stencils and encouraging mottos.

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congestion? Parking? costs? use a bicycle, please
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Beirut is more beautiful by bike
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all photos are from https://www.facebook.com/TheChainEffect/?ref=page_internal
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Gallery: The Bread cyclists of Cairo

Photo: http://irishvillagemarkets.ie/work-for-the-markets/

Cairo is a city known for its traffic congestions, multi-overpasses and noise and air pollution. But despite the fact that cars fills the space and smog fills the air in Cairo, a traditional cargo cycling scene still thrives in the inner-city streets. If you an early bird, you can start watching the bread cyclers of Cairo at 6:00 AM roaming the streets skilfully on old bicycles with a big board (or more) loaded with Eish Balady (Egyptian bread).

Those are the bread heroes who keep the bread accessible, cheap and hot. Subsidised bread is a big issue in Egypt be it the backbone of every Egyptian food table. It’s only sold through specific outlets during the working hours. So the bread delivery cyclers have a big market of employees who can’t go shopping during these hours or those who wouldn’t stand in a long line before they can by their, 5 piasters worth, loaf (0.01 € can buy 5 loaves of subsidised bread). So these delivery men work on tip-based daily wage keeping the costs of their commute at the minimum level and transporting as much loaves as they can per trip.

Photo: http://www.bicyclefilmfestival.com/film/bike-bread/
photo: https://edfoc.org.uk/events/event/bike-for-bread/

To a fresh eye the bread cyclers are very photogenic. They have attracted many photographers and film makers to document their story. The short film bike for bread by Dir. Claude MARTHALER and Raphael JOCHAUD was screened in bike film festival 2016. Here is a clip from the short film
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kl8Iti0iNCY 

and another documentation of a french filmmaker follows a bread cycler through the streets of Cairo

photo featured in everyday Egypt by Aly Hazzaa
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photo: https://egyptianstreets.com/2014/05/30/the-mystery-of-cairos-abandoned-cars/

What can Alexandria learn from Rio?

the on-street scene in the two cities

Alexandria and Rio are two cities featuring beautiful waterfronts. But far from the visual similarity there are two different stories. Alexandria Corniche (coastal road) is highly motorized with some parts of it made of six car lanes in each direction. If you go to Alexandria and you stay in a vintage sea-view hotel in the old city, you are very likely to know all the city’s problems in the first day. Apart from your almost collapsing balcony; the beautiful historical corniche street will be your biggest problem. Noise, pollution, and crowds of people waiting for a seat in the fully reserved microbuses will hinder you from enjoying your view of the eastern harbor. And if you’re a resident of the city, this chaos becomes your daily life.

Rio, on the other hand, had developed an active street with its fantastic waterfront, open beaches, a walk-able street and two-directions bike way. Future development in Rio is going towards a better cycling mobility, especially cargo mobility which accounts for 38% of all cycling in the city. cycling tours are also becoming more popular and the government is making plans to increase the number of cyclists. The city appeared on Copenhagenize index as one of the top 20 cycling cities in 2011 and again in 2013, whereas very few cities from the global south made it to the list.

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Cycling lanes in Rio de Janeiro

Meanwhile, Alexandria had replaced part of its corniche with a multistory parking garage and car overpass, and the city is planning a new high way that covers Al-Mahmodeya canal and totally remove the southern corniche and waterway. And as it has been proved in many cities around the world, motorized cities never provide a good livable place for human. The sight of car accidents became the norm on the corniche road with a daily average of 3.3 car accidents only in this road. And with the new developments taking place to favor the cars over the people, it will be even harder for the Alexandrians to find a space for them in the city.

So is it time to provide an alternative?

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Alexandria corniche before and after car invasion… recorded by a German tourist:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN4aW2jl4cA

 

Image may contain: sky, twilight and outdoor

Image may contain: sky, night, cloud and outdoor
Advertisements on the corniche used to be on the pedestrians’ eye level… now gigantic billboards are added to catch the attention of car drivers stuck in the traffic Jam. Photo: Markus Dammann