TehranTehranPhoto: Kamyar AdlIn the latest example of how tough life can be for would-be women cyclists around the world, the new police chief of the Iranian city of Esfahan has decreed it a crime for women to ride a bike or roller-skate in public — an infraction he said would be “severely prosecuted.” It’s little wonder, then, that twice as many Iranian women as men are obese.

We’ve written before about restrictions on women cycling in IndiaNorth Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, but reading a story by Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty about the Esfahan announcement right after writing about the increasing obesity problem in Turkey and Iran really brought the issue home for me.

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I have it easy in Istanbul, of course, though even here it can be a bit intimidating for a woman to go out and get some exercise. I sweated through the summer running in long pants and a T-shirt, trying to make myself inconspicuous, and it’s taken me a while to feel confident that the men who stare or call out at me largely seem to mean no harm. (Friends who’ve tried to run in more conservative parts of the city have had a harder time.) If running or biking was more frowned upon — much less outlawed — I could easily see how staying home and being sedentary would seem like a pretty good option.

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