How to make the UAE more cycle-friendly

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, takes to his bicycle on the Yas Marina Circuit. Photo: Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, takes to his bicycle on the Yas Marina Circuit. Photo: Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court

Few would quibble over the benefits of cycling, whether as a way to get fit or as a non-polluting way to get to work, which incidentally reduces traffic gridlock. For examples of cycle-friendly cities, one has only to look to Amsterdam or Copenhagen. In our region, however, there is much still to do. Building a cycling culture and making our cities more cycle friendly is one of the goals of The National’s #healthyliving initiative. This includes a campaign to get the residents of the UAE to cycle to work on Tuesday, January 13. Pardon the pun, but more people have to get on their bikes and many more cyclists take to the road, and then drivers will become more aware of their presence. In time, traffic patterns as a whole will become more bike-aware, like the most cycle-friendly cities in Europe and further afield.

This cannot happen without support from the authorities, whether it is the Department of Transport or each municipality actively pursuing pro-cyclist policies or the police being vigilant in tackling drivers who endanger cyclists.

The UAE has already made considerable progress in laying the foundations of a cycling culture. In Abu Dhabi, for example, the dedicated cycle path along the Corniche means one can pedal away for around 9km without encountering any traffic. The Yas Marina Circuit is open to cyclists once a week, if they fancy emulating the Formula One drivers, albeit at a rather more sedate pace.

In the heart of Dubai, the Nadd Al Sheba Cycle Path offers 8km, 6km and 4km loops that are just for cyclists. These are floodlit at night and have amenities like showers to use afterwards. Further out of town, the Al Qudra cycle path is an 86km cycle route through the desert. The UAE’s burgeoning cycling community has found ways to make this a civilised affair: their regular Saturday morning ride to Bab Al Shams resort beside the cycle path, for example, involves despatching coffee orders ahead so that each cyclist’s favourite hot beverage is waiting when they arrive.

All of this is good news for efforts to promote cycling in the UAE. Despite the general perception that this is not a cycle-friendly place, it is clear that there are many exciting possibilities as and when people decide to get on their bikes – literally as well as figuratively – on January 13 and beyond. Remember #cycletoworkuae

Published: December 14, 2014 04:00 AM

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