27 Oct 2015
Beirut, Lebanon
Sustainable Transport

Created in 2012, CyclingCircle is a Lebanese company that organises cycling activities in Beirut and its surroundings. It aims to create a vibrant community of cyclists and to encourage the use of bicycles as an environmentally friendly means of transport. Its founder, Karim Sokhn, also launched the first bike delivery service in the Arab world: Deghri Messenger.

Karim Sokhn is an avid cyclist, sensitive to the problem of pollution, and for years has been defending the use of bicycles as an environmentally friendly means of transport. But bike culture has been struggling to develop in Beirut, a city notorious for cars. That is why in 2012, he created CyclingCircle, with the aim of establishing a large cycling community in the Lebanese capital. For this the company organises cycling activities, including night tours of the town and cultural excursions. Since 2013, Karim Sokhn has also been co-owner of Deghri Messenger, the first bike delivery service in Lebanon. Launched through a crowdfunding campaign, Deghri (“direct” in Arabic) Messenger provides a fast, efficient and environmentally friendly package delivery service.

Meet Karim Sokhn, founder of CyclingCircle.

What is the concept of CyclingCircle?

CyclingCircle is a touring company. We organise cycling activities for locals and tourists wishing to discover the beautiful landscapes of Lebanon. We organise mostly weekends activities. We also have lessons for adults or children who want to learn to ride a bike. Our main purpose is to encourage people to use bicycles as a means of transport.

Do you have specific training in this area?

I am a social worker. I did an MBA at Saint Joseph University in Beirut. I was one of the few students traveling by bike. I often came home late after school, so I had the idea of creating an event on Facebook and organising a night ride in Beirut. 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.
The first cycling community in Lebanon | The Switchers

What are these night ride excursions?

Once or twice a month we get together with other cyclists to cross the city by bike. We usually meet after 8pm when there is less traffic. It is a good introduction to cycling and enables people to gain confidence. 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. There are also many foreigners who participate in these excursions to discover the city in a fun atmosphere.

You then set up Deghri Messenger…

Yes, because CyclingCircle is perfect to spread our message, but we wanted to go further in promoting bicycles as a means of transport. So, with my partner Matt Saunders, we launched a crowdfunding campaign to create Deghri Messenger, the first bike delivery service in Lebanon. From the beginning, the project was very well received. People love the concept! Since its launch, several Arab entrepreneurs have contacted us to try to implement this service in other countries.

Is the ecological aspect important in your approach ?

Yes, it is even the basis of all our communication. Every month we publish the number of transactions on our Facebook page. 500 bicycle deliveries in the month, is 500 cars off the roads … It’s very important to show people the impact of their actions. Especially in Beirut people suffer greatly from pollution and traffic congestion.

How are you involved in your community?

We work with other local businesses together to promote bicycle use. The idea is to promote a large community of cyclists in Beirut. We have also created jobs through our activities. For Deghri Messengers we already have three full-time employees. As for CirclingCircle, several students who participate in the events are now working with us as freelancers.

How do you manage to raise awareness?

By suggesting concrete and sustainable solutions. Replacing car deliveries by bicycle delivery is a practical, efficient and environmentally friendly solution. But mostly we encourage people to substitute, wherever possible, their car with a bike. This is the best way to reduce pollution and the heat generated by pollution. 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.

Cycling Circle Cycling activities & bike delivery service
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