Saudi Women Can Now Ride Bicycles in Public (Kind of)

Women in Saudi Arabia can now ride bicycles in public, but officials are saying “only for entertainment.”

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FRANCK FIFE / AFP / Getty Images

Saudi Arabia's Sarah Attar competes in the women's 800m heats at the athletics event of the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 8, 2012 in London.

Riding a bicycle is one activity that most take for granted, whether it is for recreational purposes or to get from Point A to Point B. But women in Saudi Arabia have been denied the opportunity to ride bicycles in public, until now. Saudi women can now ride motorbikes and bicycles, however, only in restricted, recreational areas, according to the Associated Press.

The Saudi newspaper the Al-Yawm cited an unnamed official from the kingdom’s religious police saying that women are allowed to ride bikes in parks and recreational areas, but they have to be accompanied by a male relative and dressed in the full Islamic head-to-toe abaya, the AP reported.

The official reportedly specified that women aren’t allowed to use bicycles for transportation purposes, “only for entertainment,” and they are being advised to avoid places where young men may congregate “to avoid harassment.”

(MORE: Saudi Arabia to Tourists: We Are Just Not That Into You)

The Think Progress blog from the Center for American Progress Action Fund wondered whether allowing women to ride bikes was a step forward for women’s rights in the country where an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam is followed. The blog noted that it was a baby step, in a series of other small steps in recent years.

Last year, Saudi Arabia sent a woman to the Olympic Games in London – a first for the country. In 2011, King Abdullah granted women the right to vote and run in municipal elections starting in 2015. The Saudi King also recently appointed 30 women to the country’s consultative Shura Council, which is the closest thing it has to a parliament and was previously all-male.

But Saudi Arabia, known for its stultifying, draconian morality laws, still has a long way to go. A recent TIME article looking at the expanding rights for women in Saudi Arabia noted the backlash against women in the Shura has been strong, but the counter-backlash has been equally as vocal. The article noted that, “From the outside, progress on women’s rights in the kingdom may appear to be mired in tar,” but “from the perspective of women inside the country, dizzying changes are afoot.”

(MORE: Your Wife Has Just Left the Country: Saudi Arabia Implements SMS-Tracking System)

80 comments
BariLeia
BariLeia

@bluecanadaca Tell me again about how well Canadian conservatism serves women and LGBT people?

mraustinbond
mraustinbond

I'm so glad to find I'm not the only one who loves tandem biking. 

LavLobster
LavLobster

@geekeasy Full disclosure: My mom was Muslim & it brought out the best in her. That's why I don't think of it as always oppressive.

LavLobster
LavLobster

@geekeasy I'm more comfortable saying Saudia Arabia has oppressive laws than something more generalized.

Omar_almuhami
Omar_almuhami

@akalalakal وحشتا ياصاحب الاسم الذي براس الانسان وذكر اسمك فى القران اذا لم تعرف ترا اسمك امانة وحشتنا

Propjock7
Propjock7

@danicamckellar Contemplating that? So happy my daughters live where they live. Ironically? Sadly? A Saudi dad feels the same regarding his.

Ahmedbinsalman
Ahmedbinsalman

@FadilaAlJaffal لازلت أقول أن بعض الجهات ومتحدثي اعلامها لايدركون الابعاد والقيم المترتبة تجاه مايبادرون بنشره في الصحافة ظنا منهم انه انجاز

BigPhilly
BigPhilly

@MohadesaReverie The right direction, but still ludicrous and a real shame for our time. Women are equal, and should be considered as such!

RAJWESHA2012
RAJWESHA2012

@TIME @TIMEWorld women empwrment steps in utterly consrvative society of Saudi Arabia r welcome steps 4 movement of freedom in islamic world

bluecanadaca
bluecanadaca

@BariLeia Better than Islam. Do not deflect. And don't call me racist. You are better than that.

mohamedghilan
mohamedghilan

@asidd84 neither is driving is Saudi where you should have your funeral shroud with you when you get on the road!

BariLeia
BariLeia

@bluecanadaca I reject your rubric for determining levels of human worth. Since I know and love Muslim individuals, I'm rightfully offended.

asidd84
asidd84

@mohamedghilan lol. I guess before 4 wheels, one must first master 2. The concept of transportation can be tricky sometimes.

BariLeia
BariLeia

@bluecanadaca Okay great! So we agree, Israeli and Syrian life is of equal value. Okay bye.

bluecanadaca
bluecanadaca

@BariLeia I have Muslim friends too. I don't like smoking but I like many smokers. It isn't a question of worth.