Providing a safe place for cyclists

Better connectivity will encourage bicycling in an environment where safety is paramount

A pair of cyclists at Al Qudra Cycle Track in Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National
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The health benefits of cycling are well known, but striking the right balance on the road between cyclists and motorists can be a tricky business for city planners. Many cities around the world look to a segregation approach to solve the problem. Cyclists, kept comfortably away from motorists, enjoy clearly marked and safe areas of their own. Last month, we argued that a larger network of cycle paths is the best way to encourage cycling throughout the country in a safe manner.

As The National reported yesterday, the Roads and Transport Authority is following this approach. It was announced this week that the authority is on target to deliver 900 kilometres of new cycle paths by 2020 in Dubai. At the heart of this ambitious project will be an interlinked network of paths that will connect several residential areas. One proposed example is a bike path linking Jumeirah to parks, beaches and various shops. To complete this admirable plan, the authority will be constructing dedicated bike lanes that will run along the Dubai tram route in the Marina and Al Sufouh.

When bicyclists were banned from major roads with speed limits above 60kph last month, it increased the onus on the Road and Transport Authority to provide a safe environment for those who wish to get around by two wheels instead of four. Their response – expanding Dubai’s already extensive 150km-plus of cycle paths – is welcome for novice and professional cyclists alike, because it takes advantage of Dubai’s relatively flat terrain. The paramount concern for city planners must always be safety and connectivity.

The development of safe bike paths in Dubai is the first step in the long process of changing perceptions about the role of the bicycle in daily life. It can be challenging to break free of the car dominated mindset, but with safer paths in place, we can teach younger generations to enjoy getting around the city under their own power. In so doing, we will create a generation of healthy cyclists and, ultimately, safer drivers who have a deep understanding of the road.