Bicycle course: Refugee women learn to ride a bicycle in Hamburg


Azam straightens her headscarf and walks towards her trainer, with a radiance in her eyes. Then she hugs Binnur Urkal, holds her for a long time, and says timidly, "Thank you, I love you." These are the first words Azam is speaking today in the class. With fluttering hands she pulls out her cell phone, holds it to Urkal and asks to film what she has learned in the past five days: riding a bicycle. At 45.

Hundreds of thousands of adults in Germany can not move on two wheels, says the cycling association ADFC. Especially in the countries of origin of migrant women, it is not part of everyday life. Coach Binnur Urkal has already talked to many women about the reasons: "In Iran and Saudi Arabia, for example, they are often banned because cycling is a man-made business and women are supposed to carry out their duties."

Binnur Urkal (30 y., Trainer)

On the move: At the sports ground of the SC Urania in Hamburg, Binnur Urkal brings women cycling

But in this country, on the way to work, to the doctor, to the German course, the bicycle is a quick and cheap means of transport. However, those who have not learned it as a child have a difficult time in adulthood. Simply ascending is impossible, but not learning, step by step with professional guidance. The Hamburg sports club Urania offers courses especially for women. 48 euros it costs reduced for seven days, 15 euros for women with a tolerance.

Binnur Urkal has been directing the courses for many years: "At first it looks like it's never going to be something," she says. "Honestly, they can barely stick to the scooters that we start with." These should first train balance, steering and braking. Only when the women handle it safely, Binnur gets the bikes out of the woodshed.

Learn language at the bike course

At Azam, the breakthrough is far from in sight. While some women are already pedaling on day five, they are still stuck in the pre-exercises. With a strained look, she sits on the small folding bike and pushes off with her foot to get it rolling. Now she should slide and keep the balance. But the wheels do not move more than a few centimeters before shaking their feet again. Then, after an hour, the knot bursts at her: Azam cycles. Meanwhile, laughing, the others collide. Brakes do not work yet. Binnur says: break.

"For women who have never had anything to do with sport in their lives, it's especially hard," she says. The 39-year-old hairdresser has long been a member of SC Urania. Then came the offer of training as a bicycle teacher. "I enjoy it, I like to talk to the women and learn their stories." This is also an important part of the course. "The women come from different nations, practice German here, chat, do sports and learn." A participant is in the class for the third time this year – although she has already learned it the first time. She just wanted to talk and ride a bicycle with the other women.

Refugee women learn to ride a bicycle on the sports field of SC Urania in Hamburg Barmbek

The fun is not too short

Also participant Naomi seems to enjoy the happiness in the bike course. The native Nigerian is self-confident, wearing glaring purple lipstick. In her homeland, she could not learn to drive: "I grew up in the city, there are no bicycle lanes, the roads are bad and crowded." Cycling is life-threatening there. If she had nothing better to do, her sister asked her. She just waves it off. She wanted to learn to ride a bicycle because of her daughter: "She is six, of course, she can do it, she just learned it herself," says Naomi. "I want to be able to keep up."

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