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Bike-Friendly Iranian City Bans Women from Cycling in Public

Women had long assumed that they could bicycle in public if they respected Iran's strict dress code, which requires women to cover their hair and body in public

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Women in Iran had long assumed that they could bicycle in public if they respected the country's strict dress code. RFERL

Isfahan is known as the city of bicycles, a reputation forged by its many cycling lanes, a bike-sharing system, and a government that actively promotes biking — that is, unless you are a woman.

The prosecutor in Iran’s third largest city announced on May 14 that women have been banned from cycling in public, saying it was “haram,” or prohibited under Islam. Women had long assumed that they could bicycle in public if they respected Iran’s strict dress code, which requires women to cover their hair and body in public.

In 2016, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to crush the notion with a fatwa explicitly banning women from cycling in public, but it was not strictly enforced.

Now, Isfahan’s announcement is being taken as a sign that authorities are enforcing Khamenei’s fatwa, adding to the long list of activities that Iranian women are deprived of taking part in.

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Isfahan is around 400 kilometers south of Tehran. VOA

‘Islamic Punishment’

Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the clerical establishment has enforced Islamic laws denying women equal rights in divorce and inheritance, prohibiting women from traveling abroad without the permission of a male relative, and attending major men’s sports events.

Prosecutor Ali Isfahani said police in Isfahan had been ordered to warn women against biking. He said police would confiscate the bikes of those who resisted, adding that repeat offenders would be subject to “Islamic punishment,” without elaborating.

Islamic Shari’a law does not mention bicycles because they were invented centuries after the birth of Islam in the 7th century. But Isfahani said “Muslim scholars” had “proved” that women biking was “haram.”

Isfahani said city authorities were designing a special “covered bicycle for women,” although he did not indicate what such a contraption might look like.

When Khamenei issued his fatwa against women riding bikes in September 2016, he said that “women often attract the attention of male strangers and expose society to debauchery, and thus contravene women’s chastity, and it must be abandoned.”

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Iranian women take part in a Car-Free Tuesdays event. RFERL

Bike Campaign

The fatwa was declared months after environmental activists in the western city of Arak launched a campaign — Car-Free Tuesdays — to tackle high levels of air pollution in the country.

But the campaign was aborted after a group of female cyclists were detained in the western city of Marivan following criticism from the city’s Friday Prayers leader. The women were released, but only after they signed pledges not to cycle again.

In Tehran, police forcibly dispersed female cyclists who had gathered in Laleh park for a group ride as part of the Car-Free Tuesdays campaign.

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Khamenei’s fatwa prompted an angry reaction from female cyclists, who launched a social media campaign in defiance of the ban. Hundreds of women have uploaded photos of themselves on their bicycles on social media under the hashtag

Videos of women riding bikes have also been posted on the popular My Stealthy Freedom Facebook page, the brainchild of exiled journalist Masih Alinejad that has garnered more than 1 million “likes.” (RFERL)

Next Story

Walking, Cycling Linked with Fewer Heart Attacks: Researchers

For women who walked to work there was an associated 1.7 per cent reduction in heart attacks the following year. For men who cycled to work there was also an associated 1.7 per cent reduction in heart attacks the following year, the study said

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Cycling, walking in nature may improve your mental health. Pixabay

Walking and cycling to work is associated with fewer heart attacks in adults, say, researchers, adding that could provide important health benefits.

According to the study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, in areas where walking or cycling to work were more common in 2011, the incidence of heart attacks in UK decreased for both men and women across the following two years.

“Our study at the University of Leeds shows that exercise as a means of commuting to work is associated with lower levels of heart attack. The benefits of regular exercise are numerous and we support initiatives to help everyone become and stay active,” said study co-author and Olympic-medal winning triathlete Alistair Brownlee.

The study looked at the 2011 UK Census data, which included 43 million people aged 25-74 years employed in England, and found that 11.4 per cent were active commuters. Walking was more popular than cycling (8.6 per cent vs. 2.8 per cent).

Active commuting was defined as people who reported their main mode of transport to work as either ‘bicycle’ or ‘on foot’ in the UK Census.

Rates of active travel varied significantly between local authorities across England, with as few as five per cent of people walking or cycling to work in some authorities, compared to as many as 41.6 per cent in other areas.

Walk, Jogging, Economic
Adding an extra 15 minutes of daily walking, or jogging a steady one kilometer each day, would improve productivity and extend life expectancy – leading to more economic growth. Pixabay

There was also a sex difference for active travel in the 2011 Census data, with more men cycling to work than women (3.8 per cent vs. 1.7 per cent), but more women walking to work than men (11.7 per cent vs. 6.0 per cent).

The researchers acknowledged that the big risk factors for heart disease are a lack of exercise, being overweight, smoking and diabetes.

After adjusting for these, the researchers found that active commuting was linked with additional health benefits in some cases.

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For women who walked to work there was an associated 1.7 per cent reduction in heart attacks the following year. For men who cycled to work there was also an associated 1.7 per cent reduction in heart attacks the following year, the study said.

“Whilst we cannot conclusively say that active travel to work lowers the risk of heart attack, the study is indicative of such a relationship,” said study lead author Chris Gale, Professor at the University of Leeds.

“The effect of active commuting is fairly modest when compared with the stronger determinants of cardiovascular health such as smoking, obesity, diabetes, and regular exercise. However, this study clearly suggests that exercising on the way to work has the potential to bring nationwide improvements to health and wellbeing,” Gale said. (IANS)