Egypt Independent

Cycling for Change: ‘Take action: Kick the habit’



“Stop being passive and negative, and start changing the world by correcting your everyday habits.” This was the leitmotif of the Smart Carnival that took place Friday, 1 October, at the Smart Village Club. The carnival was a cycling event aimed at raising environmental awareness and organized by the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) Nahdet al-Mahrousa

, Wadi Environmental Science Centre (WESC), Spirit of Youth Association, Group Bicycle Initiative (GBI), and the American University in Cairo (AUC) club Green Hands, in collaboration with 350.org, a global organization which aims at cutting carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Enthusiastic people gathered at Smart Village beginning in the early morning. They arrived by bicycle, bus, and carpool, as suggested by the organizers in an effort to lower each person’s carbon footprint. Cyclists, ranging from professionals to novices, came together from different parts of Cairo. After a group picture and Friday prayers, participants enjoyed their time in an environmentally friendly setting–an unlikely phenomenon in Egypt. Participants learned how to save the environment in their everyday life through the tutelage of 60 volunteers.

“I don’t bicycle but I joined the event because it is a good way to socialize and to create a group with which I can bicycle afterwards,” Noor, a 19 year-old student at Cairo University, told Al-Masry Al-Youm. Noor is excited about the idea of meeting professionals and practicing new sports.

“I’ve been bicycling for 10 years, and here in Egypt drivers don’t have a culture of cycling, they’re not used to cyclists and they often get angry at us on the streets,” Amr, a young bank clerk, said. “There are no proper bike racks in Cairo, and the asphalt is often uneven, so using a racing bicycle is often hard and dangerous. But if you really want something, you can always find a way to foster your hobbies.”

Optimism was the general feeling at the Smart Village Friday. The event elicited a surprisingly high turnout of people thrilled at learning the functioning of a solar panel or the best way to save energy and segregate garbage, while also getting tips on how to have fun in a healthy way. Participants also enjoyed the music of three bands–Wama, West El Balad and Shewyat Fan.

Mirroring this enthusiasm was one of the organizers, Aiman al-Sayed, a 26 year-old Vodafone engineer. “We are all volunteers,” he explains, “and we’re supporting the cause of 350.org,” which refers to the “safe upper limit for carbon dioxide measured in parts per million (PPM) in our atmosphere.”

According to al-Sayed, “we’re currently at 392 PPM, and we’re doing our best to raise awareness about this important issue to convince people to take proper actions.” The NGOs are targeting all Egyptian citizens by explaining to them how to positively impact the environment through very easy steps. However, “the youth and children are the most important target as the new generation who has the energy to make a change,” al-Sayed emphasizes.

The Egyptian youth appeared to be particularly interested in the current environmental situation facing the nation. Organizers expected about 1000 people to attend the environmental part of the event, and 5000 the concert, during which booths were organized to continue the awareness campaign. The majority of the people heard about the event through the social networking website Facebook, while others through the Vodafone advertisement campaign, which is “interested in being green and saving the environment,” al-Sayed told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

As the WESC association explained in one of their booklets distributed at the event, “it takes only three weeks to create a new habit,” like remembering to turn off lights if you’re not using them, using both sides of a paper sheet to save half of the amount of paper, turning the water off while you’re brushing your teeth, carpooling, and segregating the garbage properly. All these steps can be easily adopted in our everyday life and reap huge environmental benefits to the globe in the long term.

The Smart carnival also promoted the construction and installation of bike racks around the city. On October 10, a Bike Rack Design competition will take place as one of many events in support of the 10/10/10 Global Work Party campaign organized by 350.org. The event calls for carbon-cutting action and has currently registered about 5249 events in 152 countries. Events will range from tree planting, taking in Cairo and Vietnam for instance, to solar installations in Iraq and a beach cleanup in the Dominican Republic. Volunteers will aim to implement solutions to the climate crisis and raise awareness to convince more people of the necessity of saving the globe in a concerted effort.