Cycling is synonymous with freedom. When combined with infrastructure facilitating its comfort and safety, it becomes the most enjoyable way of exploring the city of Nicosia.
TEXT: ANDREAS KATSHIS / PHOTOS: PANAGIOTIS MINA
My appointment with Marina Kyriakou, the cycling mayor of Nicosia, was set for five PM at a bicycle dispensary across the street from the Municipal Theatre of Nicosia. The previous day, she informed me that I could rent a bike from any such point in the area if I didn’t already have one. Since returning to Cyprus from France in 2016, Marina has only used cycling and public transport to get around the city; “Museum Street, which passes in front of the Municipal Theatre and the Cyprus Museum, is the only route that circles the city. Recently, they’ve added crossings.”
Shortly after our rendezvous, we set off to the designated bike path and headed into the city centre. Though this historic area does not have dedicated bicycle lanes, the layout and slow speeds allow for safe cycling in relative comfort.
We crossed Omirou Street, pedalling uphill to the front of Pafos Gate, then onward towards Eleftheria Square. The square’s pedestrianised side street was full of bicycles parked in a row and people coming and going at leisure. We stopped to enjoy the view; I had never seen Nicosia from this perspective. It had been years since I felt such a sense of freedom and carefreeness. The way we experienced the environment, with the wind caressing our faces as we pedalled, was so different – so much more intense. Marina noticed my joy, smiling. She quipped, “When I lived abroad, the bicycle was my means of transportation and escaping reality. When I returned to Cyprus, I could not comprehend losing this part of my life. So, I decided to do everything I could to bring bike culture back into our everyday lives.”
After stopping for a short while at Mr Petros’ legendary sandwich shop opposite the residence of the Archbishop of Nicosia, we continued to the Famagusta Gate en route to Famagusta Street. At the Hambis Printmaking Museum, a new exhibition was in preparation. On Ermou Street, shopkeepers set up tables showcasing their wares in advance of the evening’s crowds. On a wall at the intersection of Ermou and Minoos, Fikos –a well-known artist– had painted an impressive new mural: a focal point. It had been the same with White Angel, a previous mural done by the artist a few metres away.
As the day began to fade, Onasagorou and Ledras Streets lit up for their final act. People walked next to us, and cyclists passed wearing their headphones. I say goodbye to Marina and continue the rest of the way alone. I want to extend my ride a bit more, so I change direction and head towards Toufexi Park in front of Orpheus Taverna and Chrysaliniotissa Garden. People have begun filling the tables spread in the garden. Children are running and playing ecstatically in the park. On my way back, I exit Omirou Street and enter Makariou Avenue. Expected for dinner at Olio in Stasikratous, I take the opportunity and ride. Locking my bike in a safe place, I continue on foot, thinking back on the sense of freedom I felt riding through the city.