Beirut: Two Lebanese MPs made headlines in the country this month for ditching cars in their commute to work.
Paula Yacoubian, a famous television host, drove herself to parliament on a motorbike, while Hagop Terzian, a former member of the Beirut City Council rode a bicycle.
The scene raised eyebrows in a city used to members of parliament showing up for work in chauffeur-driven automobiles, with black-tinted windows, often in large motorcades, amidst high security.
The MPs are seeking to set a good example to citizens by using alternative forms of transportation in a country that suffers from traffic jams , high fuel costs and air pollution.
“Motorcycles ease traffic problems and shorten distances” said Yacoubian, speaking to Gulf News. “It’s good and its environmental-friendly. Just look at the environmental disaster in Lebanon!”
According to a recent study by the American University of Beirut, 93 per cent of Beirut residents suffer from air pollution caused by high concentration of nitrogen dioxide, released from motor vehicles. That topped recently by a chronic waste problem that has only heightened health concerns.
Yacoubian, 46, is well-known for her community-oriented work, being founder of Dafa, an NGO that annually helps over 100,00 families in need throughout Lebanon.
On his part, Terzian said that people were fed up with traffic caused by roadblocks put up for passing motorcades of various government officials.
“No need to upset people,” he tweeted. “They have had enough of traffic jams.”
Earlier this year, Environment Minister Fadi Jereissati, a member of President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, showed up to work driving a hybrid car.
He called on other officials to lead by example.
Days earlier, newly appointed Interior Minister Raya Al Hassan of the Future Movement tore down roadblocks at the gates of her ministry, erected under her predecessor, Nouhad Mashnouk.
Civil society activists are calling for similar action in the upscale neighbourhood of Ain Al Tineh, home to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
Entire parts of the district are guarded by men with guns and sealed off with concrete and barbed wire, inaccessible both to automobiles and pedestrians.