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Economic Perks of Growing Cycling Culture in North Africa

The dozens of cyclists winding past the colonial architecture in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, are an intriguing sight. They ring their bells and let out cheers. Vélorution wants people to know when it is on the move—and wants cars to give its members space. The group, and others like it, are trying to carve fresh paths for cyclists through the crowded roadways of the Middle East and north Africa. According to the World Bank, road accidents are a leading cause of death in the region. Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has called on his people to take up cycling. One reason: studies by the World Bank and others have found that traffic congestion costs Egypt a significant chunk of gdp each year. Cycle lanes would help, but there are few in the region. Tunisia ‘s cycle lanes are nearing completion on the capital’s lakeside, which will allow riders to enjoy a scenic day out. But it is good for little else. “The problem is that disaggregated cycle routes often exist in isolation, meaning cyclists have a few kilometres of riding before they have to dismount and re-enter the traffic,” says Janene Tuniz of un-Habitat, a un agency that deals with urban development.