Things I learned from today’s bike ride in Cairo

I’ve cycled in Cairo a few times before but I’ve always limited my distance and my area of travel. Recently I came across a cycling group who do long distance training sessions, mainly on a couple of our out-of-town highways. I cycled with them last weekend for the first time and really enjoyed it. We cycled from Lebanon Square to Smart Village, 20 km away, and back. I never would have thought that possible by bike before. But it was a truly enjoyable experience. They weren’t cycling this weekend so I decided to do a long distance solo cycle.

Here is what I learned:

  • We have way more potholes on our streets in Cairo than I originally thought we had.
  • People on the street will think of you less as a woman if you wear loose clothing and you put a geeky bike helmet on your head (and thus you don’t get harassed as much).
  • You know those large families riding on a single motorcycle that we stare at as if they are aliens? Well, they all stare at you if you’re a woman in a geeky bike helmet cycling on the streets in Cairo.
  • Dogs like to chase people on bikes. I screamed like a little girl today when one dog growled at me while sticking close to my right leg. Apparently little girl screams frighten dogs away.
  • If we had bike lanes in Cairo, microbuses would use them as their private bus stops. We may as well not have them at all.
  • Note to self: next time wear a gas mask while cycling if you can’t handle breathing in extensive quantities of automobile exhaust.
  • Cycling among Cairo traffic is frickin scary. The only way to go about it is to pretend you’re a car, honk a lot, and give crazy hand gestures to idiots who don’t treat you like a car. Seriously, it isn’t the safest thing in the world to do. You need to be confident and careful at once. You do need to ring your bell a lot so that cars know you are coming. You need to make a lot of hand signals so that cars behind you know what you are doing. You need to anticipate the movement of cars/busses parked on the side of the road so they don’t start moving just as you reach their blind spot. You need to be extra careful when you reach side roads that open up onto a main street. Cars tend to swerve into the main street, not looking over their left shoulder, and expecting other cars to avoid them. They are an accident in the waiting. Be very vigilant.
  • Wearing cycling goggles might be a good idea for Cairo. Our streets constantly spit sand and pebbles into your eyes.
  • Cycling in Cairo may not be like cycling along the coast of Italy, but it’s all Cairenes have. If more of us just got out and did it, it will become more commonplace. It’s also a great way to keep fit.

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