A Saudi religious authority has ruled that women are allowed to ride bikes and buggies, on condition that they dress modestly and a male guardian accompanies them, the daily al-Yaum reported Monday.
“Women are free to ride bikes in parks, seafronts and other areas, provided that they wear fully modest dress, and a male guardian has to be present in case of falls or accidents,” the Saudi newspaper reported, quoting an unnamed source from the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. However, the daily did not clarify how or at what distance the men will be supervising the women.
The committee said it never barred foreign women from riding buggies or bikes.
The source said riding should be for recreational purposes, not as a means of transport.
“Our concern is the positive traffic culture, and full compliance with traffic rules and regulations by all drivers and riders,” Ali al-Zahrani, spokesman for the Eastern Province Traffic department, told the daily.
The religious authority advised women riding bikes to steer clear of areas with youth rallies, to avoid confrontation with protest groups.
“Wearing abayas (the Islamic gown worn by Gulf women) and erratic driving could result in terrible accidents,” Samia al-Bawardi, head of a non-governmental organization for victims of car accidents, told the daily.
Women in Saudi Arabia have been banned from driving since 1990. A petition to overturn the ban was recently presented to the country’s Shura Consultative Council.