Thank you, is the first thing to say. We know it wasn’t easy. Few who participated in #cycletoworkuae did so because it was an easier way to commute. But we hope – based on the messages, tweets and instagrammed photos – that it was a more enjoyable way to get to work. Certainly, some of the photographs of people cycling made us envious: those taken in the serene desert in Ras Al Khaimah were a particular favourite in The National’s office.
So why did we do it? In the first place, we wanted to start a conversation. We wanted to show that there are many people willing to think and act differently about how to get around our city.
Secondly, we wanted to reflect a movement. As a newspaper, we know we can only report on what is already happening in society: we started the campaign, but it was you who started the movement and made it happen.
The campaign demonstrated three things. It showed people’s willingness to think about the city in a new way. Cycling to work isn’t merely about a mode of transport – it is a way of re-imagining how a city might fit together. Indeed, as the head of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Transport said: “Let’s all put ourselves in touch with the beauty of our capital by riding bicycles.”
It is noteworthy that many who embraced the campaign so readily came from countries, such as The Netherlands, where there is a long tradition of cycling.
It also demonstrated how willing government organisations – here we should single out Abu Dhabi police and the Ministry of Transport for praise – and private companies were to get involved.
And thirdly, perhaps most importantly, it showed how involved the broader community is willing to be. Too often, we think of the UAE’s two biggest cities as atomised, but there was a genuine feeling of looking out for one another that came through during this campaign. Our impression is that there were many more who wanted to participate and were cheering from the sidelines this time round.
This is how change happens and it is due to all of you who participated that the campaign and #cycletoworkuae day were so successful. We are proud of all of you and hope that you will continue to cycle as and when you can.