Well, I had my first real bike wreck in Cairo today. I don’t count a previous incident which involved just me, my bike, the pavement and some poorly executed fancy maneuvers to fix a loose cog on the fly. In terms actual injuries, however, this is rather less severe than the latter.
Anyway, what happened was I was speeding through Tahrir Sq., rushing to get some koshary (a wonderful Egyptian contribution to the culinary world, consisting of lentils, pasta, fried crispy onions and tomato sauce) before catching a bus to Qanattir. As usual, pedestrians were wandering out into the intersection between traffic. One fellow was ambling rather slowly and I cut a line behind him. For some reason, he was possessed with the notion of stopping and walking BACKWARDS before I had time to react. He knocked me off my bike, I went sliding halfway across Tahrir Sq. (the streets downtown are amazingly slick). I picked myself and my bicycle up and walked over to the guy I had run into. A crowd gathered, as is commonly the case here at the scene of…well…anything. He was partly doubled over, but he hadn’t been knocked down that I noticed. He may have been jabbed by my handlebars pretty bad (another reminder: plug those bar ends, kids!). I apologized and tried to discern if there was anything I could do, but he waved me off. The crowd dispersed rather quickly and one guy sat with him on the curb and waved me off in a less annoyed kind of way. I apologized again and carried on to get my koshary. I’ve just got a rather sore bum (not helped by the bus ride) and some minor abrasions on one hand. I hope the guy’s alright.
Lesson learned: some Cairenes don’t know how a cross a street. I’ve been spoiled here by people who generally drive and walk with some skill (except out on the freeways and flyovers where they drive with the same boisterousness as they do downtown, but at dangerously high speeds—I’m not looking forward to the rides out to New Cairo, where the new AUC campus will be located). Pedestrians here don’t generally do the stupid things that pedestrians in the US are prone to do. People generally look where they’re going before jumping out into traffic. I suppose I need to start giving a wider berth to pedestrians who might suddenly decide to walk BACKWARDS in the middle of one of the busiest intersections in Cairo. As the saying goes, in Egypt, be ready for anything.