Our regular readers will know that The Chain Effect, a Lebanese NGO promoting cycling culture and the reduction of car-based transportation, planned an annual Bike To Work Day. Well, yesterday, April 17th, marked the event, and we saw hundreds of Beirutis (including many members of parliament!) ditch their fuel-driven engines for the healthier and eco-friendly two-wheelers.
Heightened activism and raised awareness resulted in a massive turn-out with hundreds of students, businessmen, employees, and politicians responding to the call.
We are happy to report that the participants, and the rest of Lebanon's biking community, were rewarded by the announcement of new plans to create up-to-regulation bike lanes throughout Beirut.
In a major progressive step that will improve transportation, and reduce traffic and pollution in the overpopulated capital, Beirut's mayor Jamal Itani announced that the municipality has allotted 16 kilometers for the construction of European-styled bike lanes in the coming year.
Although the distance seems insignificant at first glance, that small area is enough to do wonders to the suffocating traffic jams that the capital suffers from during rush hours.
It will also reduce our carbon footprint and air pollution markers in Lebanon!
The initiative is supported by the Swiss Embassy, which provided 10,000 Swiss francs (about $10,000) in funding.
On Wednesday, Switzerland's ambassador to Lebanon, Monika Schmutz Kirgoez, had joined Mayor Itani and other government officials, including Environment Minister Fadi Jreissati, in biking to work after the announcement of the new bike route plan.
Prime minister Saad al Hariri and member of parliament Nadim Gemayel were among many politicians to show their support for the movement.
The planned bike-lanes will comprise two loops: One running from Charles Helou to Downtown, the American University of Beirut, and Hamra, and circling back to Martyrs’ Square via Sanayeh; the other beginning at Charles Helou and running through Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael, looping through Ashrafieh and returning by way of Sodeco to end at Martyrs’ Square as well.
According to municipality officials, the bike-lanes will be clearly marked, lined by flexible bollards throughout the route, and in the sections where bikes and cars must cross paths. Bumps will be also installed to slow down the passing cars.
Despite the growing culture, many Beirutis remain hesitant to make the switch once and for all because of the lack of infrastructure to protect cyclists on the capital's somewhat chaotic roads.
The bike routes are part of a larger attempt by the municipality to address traffic congestion in Beirut, including plans to develop the public bus system.
With hopes that these new dedicated lanes will help address the locals' safety concerns, we'll be keeping you updated!