BEIRUT: Beirut’s first bike lane was cast into controversy Tuesday, when the local municipality ordered its organizers to remove the bright blue paint from the sidewalk of the seaside Corniche area.
The bike lane was painted under an initiative put into action by G Association, a non-governmental organization that focuses on the environment and energy, but Beirut’s Mayor Bilal Hamad told The Daily Star that the NGO had not received the permission necessary to start their project.
“[The project] was authorized by the previous governor without taking the OK from the [municipal] council ... which is against the law,” said Hamad, adding that the Beirut municipality had been studying a request by the NGO to mark the lane but had not yet given the go-ahead.
The Corniche straddles the Mediterranean seafront and is one of the few places where Beirutis can enjoy long strolls uninterrupted by traffic, due to the absence of wide sidewalks elsewhere in the capital. The two-lane bike path, which is over a meter wide, was painted right down the middle of the Corniche sidewalk in a light blue color.
G Association began the project Tuesday morning but was soon halted after the municipality sent a “cease work” order to the Internal Security Forces. Hamad said the painters were told to remove the path, which he described as having been painted in an “ugly blue color.”
An employee at the G Association said they were not commenting on the controversy until the issue had been dealt with by the municipality, but maintained that the idea behind the bike path was well-intentioned.
“We wanted to build the first bike lane in Beirut to reduce pollution and for bikers to enjoy riding without annoying pedestrians or getting run over by cars,” said Yasmine Tadsh, who works at the NGO.
However, Hamad argued against the inclusion of a bike path on the sidewalk, saying it should instead be placed in the road, as is customary in other major cities around the world.
“Definitely, there would be accidents,” he said, adding that the municipality had received many complaints from incidents involving pedestrians and people riding motorized scooters on the Corniche.
“You can’t have a bike track in the middle of the sidewalk,” he said. “The Corniche is for all the people who live in Beirut.”