Every year, aside from his birthday, Ali looks forward to 3 June - World Bicycle Day.
With COVID-19 restrictions blocking air travel in 2020, he channelled his passion for adventure to his mountain bike, helmet, and fluorescent green “Iraq”-adorned riding jersey.
Ali teamed up with a few of his friends and together they mapped out a weekly bike schedule to explore the beauty of their homeland. Every Monday is dedicated to riding around the neighbourhoods of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, while on the weekends the energetic team of 10 cyclists branches out to take in the inspiring historical sites and monuments across the Iraqi governorates.
“It’s been a good few years for my cycling”, Ali says with a big smile. He recounts how he started out just playfully riding around his neighbourhood in Baghdad and how his interests and commitment to cycling grew over time. Not to mention getting him in shape physically, Ali noticed how strong and peaceful his mindset evolved. “The best part”, he says, is that "the added health benefits of my cycling came at no extra cost".
Adopted in 2018 through a UN General Assembly resolution, World Bicycle Day recognises the versatility, reliability and simplicity of the bicycle which make it a favourable and alternate means for promoting an achievable solution to reduce our carbon footprint. The bicycle has been in use since the early 1800s and choosing to invest in one as a green-clean means for transportation is indeed a healthy choice for our precious planet and for our body.
Come dust storms, rampant high summer temperatures, rainfall, or crisp winters, Ali hardly ever misses his ride routine. He does wish, however, that there are more dedicated bike lanes, such as the ones introduced recently at a renovated Baghdad street, to help bikers navigate through dense traffic; that cyclists are respected as equal commuters on the go; and that increased national awareness campaigns encouraging for climate action are implemented.
As Ali tightens his helmet, positions his trendy visor sunglasses, and begins to ride off with his team, he turns around and says: "Act now: Pedal up, Iraq - Ride a bike"!