What can Alexandria learn from Rio?

ahlan ya @Heba :smiley:
what is the current cycling situation in Alexandria. ( cycling groups, initiatives and I guess there is a new bike sharing start up ) how did they survive ? or not ?
and how do the current (people who use bicycles ) cyclers ? feel about the current development in the city. ( the illegal high rise buildings, the ownership of the corniche )

and just a comment from my experience but I think Cairo is different, or at least some parts of it, I used to cycle in Cairo, only for small distances- aprox 20-30 min Max in summer - and may be it is my own opinion but I didn’t feel the need to bike lanes. the chaotic traffic gave me freedom as a bicycle to use whatever roots I see better and to embrace the “system” . may be in some neighborhoods it could be needed but at least not in all.

3rd comment :smiley: do you have a focus area to start some sort of a pilot project. anything Madyan could do, a small project in a neighborhood which is not in Cairo is a good fit for Madyan now.


Hi ya hazem… Currently in Alexandria as in Cairo there’s a traditional cycling culture in lower income neighborhoods (usually cycling within their neighborhoods in the city and cyclers are only males)… this group I think can adapt to the chaotic traffic situation and they are skilled enough to find their place… But there’s another growing group of cyclers who are younger and diverse in terms of gender and usually commute outside their neighborhoods so in a linear city like Alexandria, they have to cross a main traffic corridor (I.e the corniche or parallel to it) those are usually limited by the safety situation so you’re not likely to see them cycling in the rush hour to the University but you can find them in groups (sometimes accompanied by traffic officers for protection ) or solo cycling when the street has relatively less cars.

And for the current developments in the city… It’s following the obsolete model of car oriented traffic… And that’s stir lots of controversy sometimes anger but that doesn’t change anything since there’s no legitimate way to chanel your objections to the city officials… That’s what happened with the controversial sidi gaber seaside overpass… And is happening now with a new high way project covering El mahmodeya canal.

And yes I am planning to take it to the next step… The department in Tu Berlin is willing to cooperate for an intensive planning workshop in Alexandria and madyan is very welcome to join… I am still in planning phase

ping @amrmabdelaal

on another level, but may be not now, I would love to see the ownership development by time for the water front, how much is owned by private investors ( how many private investor) and how much is owned by the Army… just to have an idea. but anyways.

having a focus area and starting with cycling needs is a good start “playing” with Alexandria.

@Heba, this discussion prompted me to look up for information about cycling in Brussels, the city where I live now. It is not at all a bike-friendly city, but getting better.

I found a super-interesting 20 minute documentary about being a cyclist in a city where nobody cycles. The main story is that of Karl-Heinz Pohl, a guy who started the city first bike courier service, Pedal BXL. The gridlock in the city was actually good for his business, because his couriers can be much faster than cars. The company now also organises (and sells) bike tours for cities.

The documentary contains many interesting ideas for developing a cycling culture. Karl-Heinz himself notes (15’) that he has almost no client from the public sector. And yet, if the municipality or the ministries used their services, they would send a cultural signal and help develop that market. More ideas come from Klaus Bondam, a Danish politician who was active in the administration of Copenhagen, and now lives in Brussels. He says (17.0):

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that your mayor is out on a bike, that ministers, pop stars, football players, the royal family are out on their bikes […]. People see this and they say “Hey, this person is doing it, I can do it too!” […] it has a major impact]

@amrmabdelaal that’s also a big thing … which we can learn from Rio … just imagining how Lively Alexandria beaches would like without fences … the beach close to my family house in Sidi Bishr is one of the few wide beaches in Alexandria (most of them are shrinking because of sea erosion) but it’s always empty except few days every year because of the fences and the entry fees … you’re not even allowed to just walk by the sea without paying the entry fee … I still can remember Alexandria when it was a friendly city … we used to have more freedom using the public beaches… now some beaches don’t allow “civilians” to enter and most of the beaches don’t allow you to simply sit on the sand because you have to pay for a chair… These days we rarely go to the sea

Photo from Rio: Hanging out in Rio de Janeiro | ContemporaryNomad.com

@alberto very useful to see those examples … such inspiration leaves no room for excuses :smiley: sure something can be done

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I actually posted this on Alexandria scholars FB group… I didn’t expect much interaction but it seems like many are interested in the topic … now the group admin is proposing scholars meet-up to discuss on-going researches about the city… if anyone is interested to join, I can post the details once it’s there

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Wow, it’s a good thread! I thought it would all be in Arabic, but it’s all in English! Do Egyptians always write in English to each other?

Anyway. It seems that there is interest in Alex, and there is already a group of early adopters of cycling.

I noticed that Cycle Egypt organises morning and sunset cycling rides in Alex. Do people need an authorisation, or is it just informal? Is it like Critical Mass or Cairo Runners?

I offered them to add Arabic translation if somebody requested it but normally some topics we just discuss in English because we learn it that way (I was studying in Alexandria university and it’s a public university but we used to study in English in my department) … However if I need to reach out to a wider audience I have to write in non-formal Arabic (i.e. Egyptian Arabic)

and yes such events in Egypt requires authorization … it’s the same type of activity as Cairo runners … they also facilitate bike rentals for long term and bike sales plus cycling training for non-cyclers

As far as I know Cairo Runners started spontaneously, with no authorisation and no formal leadership. This is certainly the case for the various Critical Mass events:

Participants have insisted that these events should be viewed as “celebrations” and spontaneous gatherings, and not as protests or organized demonstrations. This stance allows Critical Mass to argue a legal position that its events can occur without advance notification of local police. (Wikipedia)

Hello Hiba :slight_smile:
First of all I must share with you my admiration of your work, your enthousiasm and your vision for Alexandria to be an eco-friendly city through spreading the biking culture. 4 years ago, my club (enactus) and I we had the same vision for our city Monastir, which is a small city on the Tunisian east coast yet very similar to Alenxandria and Rio,

Our goal was to help a jobless father in need to start a small project of renting bikes. We strongly believe that Monastir NEEDED that kind of projects, that would raise the citizens awareness of the environmental problems, and presenting biking as a very cool and attractive alternative to cars to use, especially when going to schools/universities, hanging out with friends, doing shopping etc… Through the market study that we have conducted, it was obvious that the early adopters for this projects would be the youth aged between 14 years old and 28 years old, and it made sense as biking was related, in older people mindset, to certain social class and symbol of poverty, making it even harder to change the laws and convince authorities to invest more in cycling infrastructure. So the idea was to bring together the early adopters and through them to spread the idea that biking is actually COOL, HEALTHY, FUNNY, CLASSY and, even though most people don’t see it for now, ECO-FRIENDLY. We managed to do that through several successful biking events. Local media, looking for new adventures in the city to share and talk about, were of a great support also!
We did not stop there, but we went convincing the city mayor, the governor and other authorities to support our events, and that it is a must not a luxury, to promote tourism and animate the city, and we succeeded in getting some very small financial support but that was great for us because we saw it as an opening for bigger support and adoption of the project and the biking culture in the future. We always insisted to invite their kids to our events, and made sure that they enjoy them. It was our way to ensure the officials would attend and see and get on board to support this new movement.

Nowadays, we there is three renting bikes agencies. You start to see many people, especially the youth hanging out on bikes in groups. It is true that no regulation or public investment were put in place to promote biking, but I think it is more important more people adhere to biking and the movement keep growing, after all it is the people who change the regulations and impose investment not the other way around.
I wish you good luck in your venture, and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions, I would be glad to help :slight_smile:


Hello Sohayb
Thank you for sharing that story … I like how cities can learn from each other just like us :smiley:
what you have done is great that’s an initial push … I also think I wouldn’t have thought of taking this topic if there were no activists like you started to make a scene in the city so it’s a collective effort … the next person will take it one step further and so on. and it’s a positive sign that you’ve already started the communication with the officials.
keep it up … I think there is a cycling movement growing slowly but surely south the Mediterranean … maybe a network of actors around those cities might help … like the cycling federation in Europe or similar networks in Latin America


“Part of the city has been designated as a World Heritage Site, named “Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea”, by UNESCO on 1 July 2012 as a Cultural Landscape.”
Which is not the case of Alexandria. The Greek cultural heritage of Alexandria is being targeted. Also, old buildings are being demolished in favor of ugly 30 stories poor built buildings. Alexandrian failed to organize against the mafias in city halls & the governorate of Alexandria. They only attacked the Alexandrian Governor because he was a civilian and from the upper middle class till he presented his resignation. Then they built this ugly bridge ruining the Cornish and the last time I was visiting my mother I thought I would not recognize our building on the Cornish and would get lost. It was night, with those new (for me) traffic lights. The city smelled pee, dust, pollution, and dead animals during the last feast! It has became an alien overpopulated city once the pearl of the Mediterranean.

Also Alexandria is older than Rio. Rio was found in the 16th century while Alexandria was founded in 331 B.C.

“Rio de Janeiro has the second largest municipal GDP in the country,[6] and 30th largest in the world in 2008,[7] estimated at about R$343 billion (IBGE, 2008) (nearly US$201 billion). It is headquarters to Brazilian oil, mining, and telecommunications companies, including two of the country’s major corporations—Petrobras and Vale—and Latin America’s largest telemedia conglomerate, Grupo Globo. The home of many universities and institutes, it is the second-largest center of research and development in Brazil, accounting for 17% of national scientific output according to 2005 data”
Jobs!! Centralization pushed qualified Alexandrian to flee the city living their space to people from its surrounding villages and small cities who are also looking for a better life, and feeling at home at the same time so they are changing consistently the city.

I was born a different cosmopolitan Alexandria. Now, the situation is alarming. Any way, if you will be in Alexandria on the 30th of September please give my friends a hand.

Hi Heba

Thank you for your work and for getting this thread started.

As a graduate student in urban sociology I, too, looked at Rio and Alexandria comparatively (as I had spent a year in the former as an undergrad and grew up spending my summers in the latter) back in 2010. I’ll look through my archives and see if I can find the paper I had written. (I can’t remember what it was about)

In the meantime, what sprang to mind as I read your entry here is the documentary Bikes vs. Cars. See here http://www.bikes-vs-cars.com/. It portrays different grassroots attempts to introduce cycling and bike lanes in Sao Paulo, Bombay and other parts of the global south if I remember correctly. I enjoyed this documentary as it shows how cyclists organise, mobilise and bargain with municipal authorities.

I’d also gladly sit with you and discuss the framing of your research, should you wish to do so. You’ll find me in Cairo at CILAS on Sundays and Wednesdays.

All the best with your work


Alexandria is always a city that misses its past… Even the generation that lived the cosmopolitan city were missing another Alexandria (at least in their literature)
The current alexandria is suffering many problems… We all can see it… But I still can see the good things and the potentials… I was born in a cleaner and more tidy and social version of Alexandria but not the glorious cosmopolitan one so I look forward more to a better future not a better past. I wouldn’t also blame everything on the people living in Alexandria (even though they are partly guilty)… Alexandria, same as every Egyptian city, is missing good governance and urban management. Of course one thing that we can learn from Rio (and most of the cities around the world) is the decentralized municipal structure, the participatory planning and elections and civil society empowerment.
Still we have some people, like your friend, who are taking the initiative to make a little change. I am in Berlin now I regret that I can’t join… But I will share it with my friends in alexandria

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Hi @karimyassin
Thanks for sharing the documentary… I will watch it once I have a computer again
I would love to look at your comparative research as well… I didn’t visit Rio but I started reading about it when my Latin American friends visited Alexandria and noticed some similarities.
Unfortunately I am not in Egypt at the moment but I would be glad to discuss my research with you online when you like.

Alexandria is not alone in this. This is a very common theme, almost everywhere I have been. I think you are very right in wanting to look more forward to the future, though the past is important and can help getting us there. The best Alexandria is waiting ahead of you.

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Alexandria is more than a city with a past. It is a planetary icon of learning and amassed knowledge. I am not qualified to say how much or little today’s city measures up to this image held in the minds of so many but I can say that there definitely exists the hope that it comes closer over time to regaining or fulfilling its exalted place in the pantheon of great cities.


That’s what we really need… It’s the only thing that keeps us moving especially when we don’t see immediate results for whatever we are trying to change

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