27 Oct 2015
Beirut, Lebanon
Sustainable Transport

Started in 2012, CyclingCircle is a Lebanese company that organizes cycling activities in Beirut and its surrounding areas. It aims to create a vibrant community of cyclists, and to encourage the use of bicycles as an environmentally-friendly mode of transportation. Its founder, Karim Sokhn, also launched the first bike delivery service in the Arab world: Deghri Messenger.

Sokhn himself is an avid cyclist, sensitive to the toll pollution takes on our communities. Despite being an advocate of bikes as transportation, he admits bike culture has struggled to develop in Beirut, a bustling capital city notorious for its car culture. That is why he created CyclingCircle — out of the desire to establish a larger cycling community in the city.

Building Beirut’s cycling culture:

In order to raise public awareness about cycling, CyclingCircle organizes activities such as night rides and cultural excursions taken on two wheels. They are also about building the confidence of riders, and offer lessons for adult and children who want to feel more comfortable on the saddle.

Deghri Messenger, the bike delivery service, has also been a good form of publicity. Launched through a crowdfunding campaign, the service provides fast, efficient, and environmentally-friendly package delivery to customers across the city. The service is aptly named — “Deghri” means “direct” in Arabic.

Meet Karim Sokhn, Founder of CyclingCircle, in this video:

Beirut’s night cycle:

While not having a background in sustainable transportation, Sokhn says his passion for cycling was enough to start the company. When he completed his MBA at Saint Joseph University in Beirut, he was one of the few students who would travel to and from class by bicycle. “I often came home later after school, so I had the idea of creating an event on Facebook, which turned into the night ride in Beirut,” Sokhn says. “That’s how it all started.”

Bicycle use has a direct and rapid impact on the environment. It is a carbon neutral means of transport which can replace cars in town, or at least reduce their use.Karim Sokhn, Founder of CyclingCircle.
Meet Lebanon’s first cycling community — and bike delivery service | The Switchers

 

Now, the night cycles happen once or twice a month, with the meet-up starting around 8 p.m. when traffic has started to die down. “The night rides are a good introduction to cycling, and enable people to gain confidence,” Sokhn explains. “Many people are afraid because of the heavy traffic in Beirut, so this is a way to break the barriers between the world of cyclists and that of drivers.”

It is not just Beirut residents who participate — Sokhn says the night rides have become quite popular with the expat community, many of whom see the evening cycles as a way to discover the city in a new and fun way.

CyclingCircle and the environment:

The environmental aspect is key. “It is even the basis of all our communications,” Sokhn says. Each month, CyclingCircle publishes the number of delivery trips taken by its three Deghri Messenger riders. “Five hundred deliveries in a month is 500 cars off the roads. It’s very important to show people the impact of their actions, especially in Beirut where people suffer greatly from pollution and traffic congestion,” Sokhn says.

The community involvement is also important, and CyclingCircle works with other local businesses to promote bike use. Several of the participants in CyclingCircle’s events are also students, many of whom now work with the company as freelancers.

CyclingCircle raises awareness for its initiatives by suggesting concrete and sustainable solutions.

“Replacing car deliveries by bicycle delivery is a practical, efficient, and environmentally-friendly solution,” Sokhn argues. “But mostly, we encourage people to substitute, wherever possible, their car with a bike. It’s not easy, because people need to change their mindsets, but it is important that they become aware of the huge impact achieved by simply replacing their car by a bicycle.”

Sustainable Transport
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