Wheel you marry me? Europe has crush on cycling

Updated 05 November 2012
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Wheel you marry me? Europe has crush on cycling

COPENHAGEN: Cycling through the heart of some European cities can be a terrifying experience as you jostle for space with cars, trucks and scooters that whizz by with only inches to spare.
Thankfully for bicycle enthusiasts, a movement is afoot to create more room for cycling in the urban infrastructure.
From London’s “cycle superhighways” to popular bike-sharing programs in Paris and Barcelona, growing numbers of European cities are embracing cycling as a safe, clean, healthy, inexpensive and even trendy way to get around town.
Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, and the Danish capital, Copenhagen, are the pioneers of this movement, and serve as role models for other cities considering cycling’s potential to reduce congestion and pollution, while contributing to public health.
The trend is catching on also outside Europe, says John Pucher, a professor of urban planning at Rutgers University in New Jersey and co-author of a new book titled “City Cycling.” Pucher says urban cycling is on the rise across the industrialized world, though Europe is still ahead of the pack.
“Americans make only 1 percent of their trips by bike compared to 26 percent in the Netherlands, 18 percent in Denmark, and 8-10 percent in Belgium, Germany, Sweden, and Finland,” Pucher told The Associated Press, citing official statistics.
But you don’t need statistics to realize that cycling is in vogue. From airbag helmets to e-bikes, here are some the ways the bicycle renaissance has hit the streets of Europe:
CYCLE SUPERHIGHWAYS: They’re not anything as spectacular as multiple-lane expressways for cyclists, but city planners believe they’re central to the bicycle revolution. They combine bike paths with bike lanes on regular streets to give pedaling commuters a smooth ride from the suburbs to the city center.
BIKE SHARING: Bike sharing, or “city bike,” services that offer bicycles for short trips in the downtown area have come a long way since the first large-scale program started in Copenhagen in 1995. That concept was simple: Deposit a coin to release a bicycle from any of a number of bike racks across the city — like unlocking a shopping cart at the supermarket — and get your coin back when you return the bike (not necessarily to the same rack).
TWO-WHEEL PARKING: So you’ve cycled to town. Now where do you park? Europeans are creative in this respect, chaining their bikes to lamp posts, street signs and drainpipes, or just parking them in random clusters on street corners. But theft is a major concern.
COCKTAIL TRANSPORTATION: For people living far from the city center, getting to work by bicycle alone may not be time efficient. That’s why many European countries encourage mixed-mode commuting, allowing cyclists to bring their bicycles onto trains or subway cars. In the Netherlands, you can use the same smart chip card you use to catch a train or tram to get a bike from a sharing system and cycle the last part of the journey.
BICYCLE CHIC: Today cycling in Europe is embraced by people of all social classes and political persuasions. But a new subgroup has emerged: the cycling hipsters. They don’t just consider the bicycle as a means of transport, but a fashion statement.
AIRBAG HELMETS: Speaking of helmets, many cyclists don’t wear them, saying they look bad and ruin hairdos. Two Swedish designers came up with a solution that protects both head and hairstyle: An inflatable airbag that you wear around your neck in a collar.
E-BIKES: Electric bikes are one of the hottest cycling trends in parts of Europe. Also known as e-bikes or pedelecs, they are fitted with a small electric motor powered by a rechargeable battery, which can give you a nice boost when cycling uphill.
It’s not a new invention: bicycles powered by electricity have been around for more than a century. But sales have taken off with the development of lighter and higher-capacity batteries and sexier designs.
China is the dominant market, with more than 100 million e-bikes on the streets. But sales are surging rapidly in Europe, especially in Germany but also in the Netherlands, where about one in five bicycles is electric, according to industry reports.


From genetics to fashion design, glamor is in Fidda Al-Marzouqi’s genes

A gown designed by Cabochon’s Fidda Al-Marzouqi.(Supplied)
Updated 18 October 2018
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From genetics to fashion design, glamor is in Fidda Al-Marzouqi’s genes

  • Fidda Al-Marzouqi talks about her label Cabochon
  • The label is known for its elegant evening gowns and fitted looks

DUBAI: She may have studied genetics and public health, but Fidda Al-Marzouqi has found success in a decidedly more creative field in her home town of Abu Dhabi.

The designer and founder of fashion atelier Cabochon spoke to Arab News about her personal style and the challenges she faced while making the transition to the studio.

“I’ve always loved anything to do with design and I’ve also always loved fashion, dressing myself up,” she said, explaining why she chose to test the waters of sartorial design while maintaining her day job as a senior health officer.

“A lot of people would always ask for my advice on how to style a certain look and my friends encouraged that, because I have natural flair — it’s not something I studied — I should pursue it.”

So, Al-Marzouqi hired a team of master cutters, tailors and hand embroiders and set up the brand Cabochon in 2016.

Named after a gemstone that has been shaped and polished as opposed to faceted, the label is known for its elegant evening gowns and fitted looks.

“It’s all about femininity. I love history, I love all aspects of design, traveling inspires me,” Al-Marzouqi said of her creative process.

However, inspiration and a knack for design will only take you so far in a notoriously competitive industry.

“If you have natural flair at designing or creating a look, there’s the other technical stuff that you’re not aware of like running a team of staff, the facts and figures — that was the challenging part,” the designer said, referring to the obstacles she has faced on her journey so far.

But she learnt the ropes and now oversees all aspects of research, design and production and is particularly keen to ensure the women she dresses have the “full Cabochon experience,” including “the attention, the care (and) the fit.

“I create and I design, but obviously every woman has a certain style so you respect the personality that comes in — her style, the shape of her body, her attitude, what she likes and, accordingly, you get inspired as a designer.”