Could urban tourism improve unemployment rates, while stimulating cleaner urban transport? How could southern cities improve the supply of sustainable tourism in such a way that the income derived from this sector is filtered beyond the largetour Northern operators? Can the inclusion of women in the labor market be promoted while helping to improve the chaotic road traffic in a country like Morocco? Although it may seem like a chimera, the Pikala Bikes project, in the heart of the city of Marrakech, was born with the intention of helping to overcome all these challenges and become a replicable project on a local and global scale.
With great enthusiasm and enthusiasm, the director of Pikala, the Dutch Cantal Bakker, welcomes us at the door of her headquarters, 1.5 kilometers from the central Jemaa El-Fna square. The space has been provided by the City of Marrakech, and like any weekday, it is in full swing. At the entrance, a small circuit with road signs serves as a practice perimeter to learn to ride a bicycle. Moving forward, the tandem and velocipede park welcomes a bicycle repair training workshop. And in the center of the field, dozens of visitors enjoy a tea pedaling on the new multi-tandem bicycles, recently inaugurated ...
Last year, as we passed through Marrakech, we already told you about the installation of the first public bicycles in all of Africa: the Medina Bikes. It was a transport aimed especially at tourists and wanted to promote more sustainable urban mobility. Now, Pikala, which means 'bicycle' in Dariya, or Moroccan Arabic, emerges in the Diour Jdad neighborhood to promote sustainable tourism through alternative and clean transport. With the benefits generated from the rental service andtours For foreigners, the NGO is conducting training for tour guides and mechanics, and giving classes to boys and girls, as well as adolescents and adults, who come to the center for private or group classes.
“After COP22, held in Marrakech in November 2016, the environment and air quality have become a priority for our city. That is why on September 28 we inaugurated a new line of electric buses and that we supported initiatives such as Media Bikes or Pikala ”, explains Ahmed El Motassadeq, deputy mayor of Marrakech. “Our city traditionally had a cycling culture that has been lost with the introduction of cars and that has been an environmental problem. I believe that we must follow in the footsteps of cities like Barcelona and the initiatives taken by its mayor, Ada Colau to improve bicycle mobility. That is why we believe that with Pikala, people can regain their interest in this form of transport, so we are going to promote its use among youth and influence road safety education both in schools and universities ”, says El Motassadeq after the act of inauguration of the new multi-tandem bicycles that Pikala celebrated on September 19.
But, how does a project like Pikala face the daily challenges to adapt a sustainable transport to a responsible tourism option with the capacity for transformation and local development for the city of Marrakech?
CHALLENGE 1: Youth unemployment
Almost a quarter of Moroccan youth are unemployed. This means that four out of every five unemployed are between 15 and 34 years old; a structural and multi-causal problem in which an insufficient educational system is always an obstacle. For this reason, the support that the Tui Care Foundation has decided to provide to Pikala Bikes is essential. This collaboration is enabling 90 young Moroccans to be trained as bicycle tour guides in their hometown, in addition to giving them not only a deep understanding of bicycle mechanics, but also the basic fundamentals to learn how to run their own cycle touring business. Of these almost one hundred young people, 36 will be employed by Pikala Bikes at the end of this annual training, which began in April of this year. And the others will acquire the necessary skills to start their own businesses or contribute to the tourism sector from a perspective more focused on sustainability.
CHALLENGE 2: Transportation and urban pollution
Some studies warn that air pollution in some African cities is more deadly than malnutrition or water pollution, and that this problem could turn into a health and climate crisis. According to calculations by the Organization for Cooperation and Developmentlo Economic (OECD), the human and financial cost of pollution in Africa suggests that dirty air could prematurely kill 712,000 people a year, compared to approximately 542,000 deaths from contaminated water, 275,000 deaths from malnutrition and 391,000 from unsafe sanitation. Although the causes of air pollution vary greatly from one country to another, the World Health Organization determined last year that Casablanca (Morocco) is considered the 7th African capital with the worst air quality, after Kampala ( Uganda), Cairo (Egypt), Yaoundé (Cameroon), Johannesburg (South Africa), Tunis (Tunisia) and Dakar (Senegal).
Given these data, the introduction and adaptation to alternative models to those imported from industrialized economies, such as dependence on the individual car, are necessary. For this reason, it is of great importance that local and national governments work hand in hand with the private sector and civil society organizations to offer green transport alternatives in the main cities. Pikala, as well as Tui Care, are playing a crucial role in this regard. But will the bicycle be able to stop being considered the transport of the poor and re-enter Marrakech in a massive way? While change is brewing, other cities such as Dakar or Rabat have already shown their interest in the project in order to replicate it.
CHALLENGE 3: Mass tourism vs. responsable tourism
Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, yet mass tourism is unsustainable and can have far-reaching negative impacts. Although for many countries and regions of the world tourism can be the main source of foreign exchange and employment, the secondary effects can be terrible: it causes great speculation in housing and affects the prices of products and basic goods in the host countries ; the fluctuation of prices -dependent on the global market- affects very negatively the salaries of local workers; contributes to air, water and environment pollution in general ...
In this sense, the Tui Care Foundation, a partner of Pikala, considers it essential to have a direct impact on aspects as basic as air transport and carbon emissions derived from the tourism sector. Currently, tourism represents 5% of global emissions. Of these, approximately 4% comes from transportation (40% would come from air travel and 32% from car travel) and almost 1% from the accommodation sector. For this reason, Tui Care works both in the implementation of less polluting air fuels based on recycling, and in the implementation of green transportation projects such as Pikala Bikes.
In addition, Pikala Bikes wants to promote responsible tourism that is respectful of local cultures. Therefore,tours They are always offered by marraquechíes and visits to a traditional and popular Marrakech are encouraged, which helps the visitor to get a more reliable idea of the real life of the city, which at the same time fosters a more tolerant relationship with the population.
CHALLENGE 4: Gender equality
A CIDOB study published at the beginning of the year shows how, in Morocco, the literacy rates of men exceed 82%, while that of women falls to 62%. While the majority of Moroccan guides are still male, Pikala puts a very clear focus on the inclusion of women, offering special cycling classes for them and working to put them at the heart of the business. In addition, women also participate in bicycle repair workshops, training mechanic girls, apart from receiving language classes to be able to act as guides for groups of different origins.
According to Cantal Bakker, "a change in the position of women in society changes the entire cultural structure." The director of Pikala, who had previously worked with refugee women in the Netherlands, explains to Urban Beings that riding a bicycle helps women feel that they are in control of their lives, and that it empowers them. For this reason, Cantal wanted the board of directors of the association and the organization to be made up only of women. A decision made conscientiously so that women take the required weight in the business world of Morocco.