By Safa Ben Said | Jun 2 2014critical mass , cycling , Events in Tunisia , harakat baskel
“Here people use bicycles in their free time. They don’t use it go to work. We want to change that and promote the use of bicycles as a means of transportation,” Filip Schaffitzel said.
Schaffitzel is one of the regular participants of Critical Mass Tunis, an event that takes place the last Friday of every month. Bike riders gather next to the clocktower in downtown Tunis and embark on a group trek through the streets of the capital.
The event promotes bicycle use as an alternative means of transportation. It first started in the 1990s in San Francisco before being adopted in many cities throughout the world.
Schaffitzel, from Germany, lives in Tunis and rides his bike to work everyday.
“Biking is clean, no noise, and you don’t need a parking spot. Besides, you can avoid traffic,” he told Tunisia Live.
“The cars respect you” in Tunis, he said. “At first sight traffic might seem chaotic and dangerous, but there is actually a pattern in traffic”.
In Tunis, Sousse, and Monastir, young people are engaging in cycling events to promote an environment-friendly means of transportation. Facebook pages like “Harakt Tbaskel” (“Cycling Movement”) posts photos and videos of group rides and biking events that are growing ever more popular.
“It all started with a group of friends creating a Facebook page to promote bicycling,” Brahim Mzoughi, co-founder of “Harakt Tbaskel,” told Tunisia Live.
“The first event we organized, we were expecting ten people but we had 100. For the second we had 150 and at the last one we had about 200 cyclers.”
“We were offered sponsoring but we turned it down. We don’t want to promote brands. We want to promote cycling,” he added.
At the last Harakt Tbaskel event in the Tunis suburb of La Goulette, cyclists of all ages came in costumes to enjoy a group ride. Although lacking financial support, riders seek to contribute individually to the event.
“We still haven’t planned for the next event, but meanwhile people are asking us where its going to be on Facebook,” said Mzoughi. “This event aims to promote cycling. We want to have a special bike lane in the streets.”
Ramzi Bsaida, owner of a bike shop in Tunis, is optimistic about the future bike market in Tunisia despite of lack of government support.
“Now people use bikes more than before,” he told Tunisia Live. “Instead of wasting an hour in traffic, you can use your bike and go to work and practice sports at the same time.”
Bikes at his shop cost between 200 and 600 dinars ($120 to $360), Bsaida said.
“We import used bikes from Europe to be affordable, because new bikes are very costly,” he said, adding that Tunisian taxes on imported bikes add a 47 percent surcharge to their original price.
“Bikes make you healthier, they are the best means of transportation,” Bsaida said.