More and more women are strapping on their helmets and taking to the streets, on bicycles
19 September 2017| Last updated on 20 September 2017
Cycling amongst women is becoming a big trend in Saudi Arabia with cycling groups popping up and cycling shops being opened – by women.
Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive, participate in numerous sports or vote but in 2013 this changed a little bit. The Saudi government announced that women are now allowed to ride bicycles! Wearing their full abaya and being accompanied by a man…
Female cyclists are only allowed in parks or on beaches and only with the presence of their guardian. Women aren’t allowed to use their bicycles as a means of transport and still need to be modestly dressed in their traditional Islamic robes.
Even though it might seem insignificant for the rest of the world, it was a big leap for women in Saudi Arabia and they are making full use of it.
Nadima Abulaynain is an 18-year old female living in Saudi who is making huge waves by encouraging other women to start cycling as well.
Nadima told the Arab News that she originally started getting her family to cycle with her around their house. Neighbours were surprised at first but quickly became supportive of this notion.
Nadina created a page on Instagram showing the fun that she and her family was having and soon the page became very popular. With such a high demand of people wanting to join them, she soon after created a WhatsApp group where they can arrange to meet up to go cycling together.
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Baraah Luhaid is another example of a woman in Saudi Arabia that is promoting cycling amongst women. Baraah is the founder of Spokes Hub - Saudi Arabia’s first gender-inclusive cycling community and business.
Other than this great achievement, she has also designed a special abaya with legs so that woman can cycle more easily without the abaya getting caught in the spokes of the bicycle.
Spokes Hub is becoming a huge success in Riyahd with Princess Reema, the deputy president of Saudi Arabia’s Women’s Sports Authority publicly endorsing the project. They recently also won a Kingdom-wide prize for start-ups.
Despite their successes, both Nadina and Baraah are still facing numerous challenges. Nadina was informed that she needs to get a permit in order to host her cycling group. She applied for the permit and is waiting to hear back from the governorate.
Baraah on the other hand legally cannot open a cycling centre for women. Spokes Hub remains situated at her brothers university and works from the back of a van in order to include women and girls in this community. Further to this, her brother often needs to represent the business as investors laugh at the thought of a female CEO of such a company.
Both women are however still staying optimistic and sharing their enthusiasm with other women. Recently the government has started approving licenses for women’s gyms and according to the Vision 2030 roadmap, Saudi have plans to start making regular practice of sports more accessible for women and girls.