Rid­ing for life

Lebanon Traveler - - TOURING LEBANON -

For many, cy­cling is much more than a leisurely pur­suit or a gen­tler mode of trans­port; it’s a way of life. With a grow­ing cy­cling com­mu­nity in the coun­try, Le­banon Trav­eler speaks to two Le­banese cy­clists pas­sion­ate about the power of the bike

Jad Abou Ar­rage,

as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at Le­banese Uni­ver­sity and mem­ber of Polyliban

What got you into cy­cling in Le­banon?

I started as an am­a­teur and used to rent a bike for easy rides along the north­ern coast be­tween By­b­los and Ba­troun and in the Chouf. In 2010, I vol­un­teered for a non-com­pet­i­tive multi-sports events or­ga­nized by the As­so­ci­a­tion du Polyliban, a Le­banese non-profit as­so­ci­a­tion work­ing for the pro­mo­tion of sports and cul­ture through cy­cling as well as other ac­tiv­i­ties in na­ture. Polyliban’s ob­jec­tives and spirit mo­ti­vated me to buy my own bike and start do­ing longer rides with the aim of dis­cov­ery, chal­lenge, and the en­joy­ment of the Le­banese land­scape.

What are some of the best re­gions in Le­banon to see by bike?

The Le­banese land­scape of­fers dif­fer­ent scener­ies where we can en­joy cy­cling, from the coast­line to the high­est moun­tains and the Bekaa Val­ley; you can cy­cle on paved roads, dirt roads or tech­ni­cal pathways. Per­son­ally, I pre­fer to cy­cle in re­mote ru­ral ar­eas to ben­e­fit from the calm, where I can ex­plore nat­u­ral and cul­tural her­itage while ped­al­ing.

How can cy­cling help cre­ate pos­i­tive so­ci­etal change in Le­banon?

I be­came an ac­tive mem­ber of Polyliban in 2012. Cy­cling could be part of the so­lu­tion for the trans­porta­tion sys­tem in ur­ban and sub-ur­ban ar­eas; it is con­tribut­ing to ru­ral and na­ture­ori­en­tated tourism ac­tiv­i­ties and giv­ing the op­por­tu­nity to many Le­banese and for­eign­ers to dis­cover the coun­try in a dif­fer­ent way, ap­pre­ci­ate its beauty and work for its con­ser­va­tion. polyliban.org

Samir Na­has,

econ­o­mist and cy­cling en­thu­si­ast

How long have you been cy­cling?

I’ve al­ways cy­cled. I used to study in Paris and had a bike; ev­ery week­end I used to go out­side Paris by bike and some­times I would cy­cle around the Loire Val­ley and camp.

How of­ten do you cy­cle?

I usu­ally do a weekly cy­cle in Le­banon at the week­ends. I like to climb so I usu­ally cy­cle in the moun­tains where there is no traf­fic. I’ll cy­cle maybe 50km per ride in the Metn dis­trict, which is where I live.

Has the cy­cling com­mu­nity grown in Le­banon?

It’s def­i­nitely grow­ing in Le­banon. I used to have a cou­ple of friends to cy­cle with me, now I know at least 60 peo­ple. It’s re­ally ex­panded over the past four years.

Is it a chal­lenge cy­cling in Beirut?

I don’t cy­cle in Beirut much as it’s danger­ous for ev­ery­one.

What do you en­joy about cy­cling?

I like the open air and it’s faster than walk­ing. It's ex­er­cise plus you have a bit of speed. It’s a way to en­joy the land­scape or na­ture. Though I usu­ally cy­cle the same main routes and know the land­scapes well; once a year I try to travel and dis­cover a new re­gion by bike.

Would you com­mute to work by bike?

It’s not just a ques­tion of dan­ger, it’s very hard. In sum­mer, it’s out of the ques­tion be­cause it’s too hot and within 15 min­utes you’re com­pletely soaked. In win­ter it’s the op­po­site – when it rains it re­ally pours here. So there are only a few months where it’s com­fort­able to com­mute by bike, it’s not easy to do on a regular ba­sis. I do com­mute by bike when I have the chance to.

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