Sunday June 04, 2023

Roads know no gender

March 28, 2016

Female cyclists come out in solidarity with Lahore cyclist injured by miscreants


Earlier this month a young woman, Aneeqa Ali, of the Critical Mass Lahore was badly injured after a few boys in a car thought it well to hit her bicycle, as she cycled her way through the roads as per her Sunday morning routine, after their howls, hoots and car-honking had failed to grab her attention.

The incident led to a social-media furore and garnered a much needed debate over the idea of safety and security of women at public spaces.

However, in a bid to show solidarity with Aneeqa, members of the popular group Girls At Dhabas decided to organise a cycling rally from McDonald’s at Seaview to the Village restaurant and back, on early Sunday morning.

The group called on all female cyclists in the city to paddle through the patriarchal notions of who owned the roads.

The organisers were met with a good number of cyclists wearing helmets and carrying posters in support of women empowerment. 

“I and two other friends were a bit behind the main rally when a man, accompanied by his kids, lauded our efforts but asked the three of us to stay close to the group because we were ‘alone’,” shared one of the cyclists, Amal.

Echoing the words, representative of Girls At Dhabas, Sadia Khatri, said it was ironic that even three girls were considered alone but a single man was not considered unsafe.

Another cyclist, Amna remarked that even though the cyclists were catcalled, it was nonetheless an interesting sight for many on the roads. “When we stopped to drink water, men around us stared because it was an anomaly for them.”

While the cool sea breeze helped the riders stay put against the rising Celsius, the female cyclists proved that women could reclaim the right to be on the roads.

However, the question of what was meant by ‘safe roads’ was also brought up as the route chosen did not include the main city but a main road in a posh locality of the city.

Yet Shumaila, who came all the way from Gulistan-e-Johar said the reason she came was to show her support for the movement.

“I have longed to see this revolution in Pakistan; where women would be able to ride freely,” she added.

Hiba, who cycled publicly for the first time, shared of her previous experience of cycling in NED University where she said the experience was surreal because she was familiar with the area.

One of the riders of Critical Mass Karachi said when they cycled as a group which included women and men, the female riders tended to ignore those staring or passing comments but this time she called out men who tried to act as impediments in her route.

Nevertheless, men did play a supporting role by providing their bikes to participants and showed up for support.

As the group decided to make the cycling venture more inclusive by riding through major junctions in the city, some girls were already thinking of buying their own bikes to ride through the roads.