This has to be one of the strangest bicycle stories I've seen. (Maybe it's an April Fool, and I've been "punked"!)
Saudi Arabia's religious authority has given his (yeah, like it would be a woman!) blessing for women to ride bicycles in the country, "in parks, seafronts, among other areas, providing that they are wearing fully modest dress and a male guardian has to be present in case of falls or accidents." Driving is still off-limits for women, of course.
They also advised women to "steer clear of youth rallies, to avoid confrontations with protest groups."
Can that be right? Gangs of punks are protesting the newfound women's lib? "No wife of MINE will be seen riding a bike!" (A person would think that the youth of the country would protest in favor of relaxing the old-time restrictions. The times, they are a-changin'!)
Samia al-Bawardi, who apparently is an advocate for womens' rights, points out correctly that wearing abayas (the Islamic gown worn by women) and riding erratically "could result in terrible accidents."
Interestingly (and coincidentally?) in this country 120 years ago, bicycles played a significant part in the "emancipation" of American women. Munsey's Magazine, in 1896, stated: "To men, the bicycle in the beginning was merely a new toy, another machine added to the long list of devices they knew in their work and play. To women, it was a steed upon which they rode into a new world."
(More info about women's emancipation and bicycles, including some awesome photos and illustrations, can be seen HERE.)