An initiative, called Sekketak Khadra which literally translates into “your path is green” – an Arabic idiom that means your path is clear – installed Cairo’s first bicycle racks in the Heliopolis suburb of Cairo last month. The initiative, which adopted the slogan “Egypt is faster by bike,” brought together social change incubator Nahdet El Mahrousa, the Danish Embassy in Cairo, UN-Habitat Egypt, Heliopolis Heritage, and the Governorate of Cairo.

Rana al-Sadek, Nahdet al-Mahrousa’s Communications Manager, told Egypt Independent that “the idea behind the initiative is to encourage people to leave their cars behind and opt for biking instead.”

She added that: “We began conducting mapping studies, along with surveys asking people where would be the best places to put bike racks. We picked locations [that had] security and cameras. By the end, we pin-pointed more than one-hundred locations in Masr al-Gedida (Heliopolis) and downtown. We chose [Heliopolis] because it has a large number of cycling projects.”

Sekketak Khadra launched its first bike racks in Cairo in the Heliopolis neighborhood of Korba. Courtesy of Sekketak Khadra.

From the launch of Sekketak Khadra’s bike racks in Korba, Heliopolis. Courtesy of Sekketak Khadra.

Sekketak Khadra, which aims to encourage more cyclists to take the roads to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, as well as to promote the benefits of cycling, was first conceived of in 2016, and was well-received by the growing number of cyclists in the capital (link in Arabic). The initiative, which will install 100 bike racks across the capital, began with the installation of five bike racks in Korba in Heliopolis, with plans to install a total of 110 racks to carry over 800 bicycles by the end of the summer.

Mohamed Samy, one of the co-founders of Sekketak Khadra, told local newspaper Al-Ahram that he first had the idea to install bike racks and delineate bike lanes across Cairo in 2016. The project kicked off when he signed an MoU with Cairo Governorate, and, working hand-in-hand with a network of partners, the group conducted on-ground research for the project.

Sekketak Khadra will plans to install bike racks in Cairo’s downtown at the end of June.

Cairo, a megacity that is home to over 20 million people, is notorious for its hours-long traffic jams. A 2010 report published by the World Bank noted that, besides the time wasted in traffic, congestion results in additional fuel consumption, wear and tear on vehicles, lowers air quality, and increases the cost of transport for business. A 2014 Traffic Congestion Study by the World Bank put the economic costs of congestion in Greater Cairo at EGP 47 billion ($8 billion) – amounting to 3.6 percent of Egypt’s GDP.

Sekketak Khadra installs bike racks in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. Courtesy of Sekketak Khadra.

Sekketak Khadra installs bike racks in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. Courtesy of Sekketak Khadra.

A cycling culture has slowly but surely been gaining momentum over the past five to ten years in the Egyptian capital. In 2014, Ain Bicycle, an Egyptian bike startup, launched in response to a growing culture around cycling.

Co-founder of Sekketak Khadra Samy also points out the growing appeal of cycling amid austerity measures, which have led to a series of fuel price hikes. In May of this year, the Egyptian government introduced price hikes to metro tickets, raising prices almost three-fold in some cases, with pricing adjusted to the number of stops rather than the previous flat rate, leading to protests.

Last year, Cairo Governorate signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a bike sharing project, Bicicletta (Literally: Bicycle), which will be funded and managed by UN-Habitat Egypt and the Zurich-based DROSOS Foundation.