Well Al-Humdulillah as we say here in Saudi when something good happens. And something good has happened we women are allowed to take to our very own wheels!! Freedom at last I hear you shout, women can drive, there really is a God in his heaven and the women can get out and about. It has been declared that women here in the Kingdom can ride bicycles!
Okay so it’s a bicycle, two wheels good, four wheels bad! Still an Orwellian landscape but it is progress. Or is it? Carefully cutting through the rhetoric of edicts, laws and declarations what we have is this – women can only ride in designated areas and only if accompanied by a male guardian. They will have to be ‘modestly dressed’ in this case the full abaya, head to toe shroud! They must have no fixed destination in mind, cycling is purely for pleasure and not to transport them to a place of work. They must avoid areas where men gather as this might invoke excitement and lead to them being harassed. As one official put it, “the new policy stipulates that women may not use the bikes for transportation but “only for entertainment” and that they must not ride near men “to avoid harassment.” So a bike is not a means of transportation but of entertainment – makes sense now of Boris’s bike plan for London avoiding his bikes is a bit of a joke!
So just when we thought we would be free to move, to take to the open road go where we want, commute to a job if necessary it’s thanks but no thanks we are still restricted and still going round in circles and getting nowhere fast. Ah to be a woman in Saudi!