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Why Were Saudi Women Denied the Right to Bike Until This Week?

9:30 AM PDT on April 3, 2013

In a bit of news that's bound to add some perspective to your local battles, Saudi Arabia this week lifted the ban on public biking for women, sort of. World Streets' Eric Britton relays the report from Al Jazeera:

On Monday, Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice overturned a previous ban on cycling and motorbiking for women. The ruling stipulates that women must wear a full-body abaya, be accompanied by a male relative, and stay within certain areas. They are allowed to bike for recreational purposes only, not as a primary mode of transportation.

Britton writes that some of the credit may be due to the film "Wadjda" -- trailer shown above -- a portrait of a Saudi girl who dreams of owning a bicycle and racing her male peers. It wouldn't be the first time bicycling and women's liberation have intertwined.

Some historians credit the late 19th century bicycling movement with helping to fuel the successful campaign for women's suffrage in the United States.

Were there not some power in the ability to transport yourself freely, by your own force, it seems doubtful that bicycling would have been banned for women in Saudi Arabia in the first place. The fact that women still aren't permitted to bike for transportation demonstrates that this repressive state still fears the effects of bicycling on women's position in society.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Wash Cycle reports that a man who was caught on video trying to run a cyclist off the road will likely be spared jail time, or even a suspended license. And the Active Transportation Alliance's Town Square blog shares a study that measured what Illinois's trail system contributed to the state's economy.

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