Bicycling enthusiasts around the globe are celebrating World Bicycle Day Thursday, including in Somalia, a Horn of Africa nation still struggling for stability after years of conflict. Somalia's cycling federation was just recognized last year and with poor roads and equipment, it's an uphill battle to prepare for upcoming international competition.
The Somali cycling federation has just 20 professional bicycles accepted in the International Cyclist’s Union (UCI), the world governing body for sports cycling based in Switzerland that oversees competition.
Poor equipment and closed roads due to security threats from the armed militant group Al-Shabab, mainly in the capital, Mogadishu, are a couple of challenges facing young cyclists training for international competition.
The secretary-general of the Somali cycling federation, Saed Ahmed Abukar, said despite the challenges, they are committed to building the sport at a grassroots level.
He said most roads used by cyclist for training in Mogadishu are either dilapidated or closed for security purposes, and therefore it has become a great challenge to achieve a smooth training schedule.
He added they also lack enough equipment, such as helmets, to protect the riders from injuries during accidents, and instead cyclist use football gear as an option.
In April 2018, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 3 International World Bicycle Day.
One of the up-and-coming Somali cyclists, Hassan Bare Ugas, emerged in the second position during Somalia’s cross-country cycling championships held last year.
Bare, who practices in the gym most of his time to avoid poor lanes, said he dreams of flying the flag of his country in upcoming regional and international cycling competition.
He said he is practicing very hard in the gym and sometimes on city streets, wishing to represent his nation in upcoming international competition, such as the African championships and the Olympic Games.
According to the United Nations, apart from its sporting activities, the use of bicycles makes education, health care and other social services more accessible to the most vulnerable populations in Africa and contribute to cleaner air and less congestion on roads.