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Beirut Tries to Get Back on the Bike

The wildly car-centric Lebanese capital is trying to be more bicycle friendly, but traffic, politics, and the city’s own tangled history make for an uphill battle.
Beirut can be tough on bicycles.
Beirut can be tough on bicycles. Kaveh Waddell/CityLab

Under a low moon, three dozen cyclists filed through one of the hipper neighborhoods of Beirut. The bars lining the street were filling with the Thursday-night crowd, who gawped as the bikers rolled by in oversized neon-yellow vests. Some cyclists wove skillfully between parked cars; others wobbled precariously. Drivers rolled down their windows to shout questions at the unlikely peloton. “What’s happening? Where are you going?”

Beirut isn’t used to bicycles. Thanks to its aggressive drivers, pockmarked pavement, buzzing scooters, and a general disregard for rules of the road, cycling around the Lebanese capital requires the focus and agility of a martial-arts master.