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Fourth Netherlands Biking Day in Cairo

Mary Fikry

24 Nov 2015 8:02 pm

The Embassy of the Netherlands in Egypt has organised a recent seminar at Cairo

University on cycling as an alternative mode of transportation in urban

environments.

The Netherlands is known worldwide as a pioneer in integrating cycling in urban

transport and developing the necessary infrastructure, reducing car traffic and

pollution in cities, and promoting the bicycle as a low-cost mode of transportation.

During the seminar, transportation experts and stakeholders from Egypt and the

Netherlands shared their scientific knowledge and experience on integrating the

use of bicycles in urban traffic policy, and presented their initiatives on cycling in

Egypt.

Gerard Steeghs, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Egypt, delivered an opening

speech in which he pointed out that the seminar is a continuation of the efforts that

started in 2012 when the Embassy held a forum about biking as a sustainable

alternative for motorised urban transport. Along with the seminar in 2012, the

Embassy organised its first Orange Bike Day. “The first bicycle tour was meant to

demonstrate first-hand the experience and fun of biking in Cairo. For the years that

followed, we let the fun of actual biking take the lead, but now, with the fourth

edition, we want to return to the discussion on related policy issues.”

Ambassador Steeghs stressed that in Egypt the people’s interest in cycling

increases by the year. “Cycling as a sport becomes more and more popular, even

your president has been seen many times on a bike, and there are widely spread

initiatives related to biking.” He expressed his confidence that Egypt is on track for

a broader role of the bicycle in urban traffic, despite the many challenges ahead.

“In the past years, and now with this second seminar, we have made an excellent

beginning! The interest is there. Now it’s time for change.”

The Dutch ambassador contended that the question of finding a more efficient way

of transportation is the same everywhere, adding that reaching a solution for traffic

problems is never easy. “Today we focus on the bicycle, which for the Netherlands

is one of the most used means of transportation. In the Netherlands driving a bike

is safe; cyclists are well protected and bicycle lanes are found everywhere. People

are actively discouraged to use cars and get on bikes; high fuel costs, blocking cars

from entering city centers along with wide availability of rental bikes.”

Mr. Steeghs stated that in the Netherlands cars were the preferred method of

commuting instead of bicycles, up until the seventies. By that time people came to

the conclusion that the car is not always the most optimal solution. New policies

were developed to encourage the use of bicycles, which have contributed to the

Netherlands becoming the cycling nation it currently is. “In the Netherlands we

have a total amount of 18 million bicycles. In fact, 84% of the citizens who are

above 4 years old own a bike. At the latest counting we had an estimated number

of 35.000 kilometers of cycling paths. In total the Dutch cover a distance of 15

billion kilometers a year.”

Ambassador Steeghs said the usage of bicycles comes with questions and some

struggles. However, he added, since the Netherlands is one of the forerunners in

the use of bicycles and the adaptation of the necessary infrastructure, it has a lot of

experience that is shared in other parts of the world as well. “From this point of

view we hope to be of some kind of inspiration to Egypt. By organizing this

seminar we aspire to trigger the debate on what is possible in Egypt,” he

concluded.

On Friday 20 November, the Netherlands Embassy organised the fourth Orange

Bike Day with the support of Egypt’s Global Biking Initiative. The cycling tour,

which set off in Zamalek at 8.30am, saw thousands of Egyptians from all ages take

part.

Watani International

24 November 2015


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