Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 November 2020

Cycling grows in popularity in Abu Dhabi as new routes are added

Plans are under way to connect Arabian Gulf Street with Saadiyat Island, and Reem Island with the Eastern Mangroves

Members of the Desert Shield Fitness cycling team - (L to R) - Rolf Jager, Mohammed Ibrahim and Abdulla Al Blooshi . Victor Besa / The National
Members of the Desert Shield Fitness cycling team - (L to R) - Rolf Jager, Mohammed Ibrahim and Abdulla Al Blooshi . Victor Besa / The National

Abu Dhabi is to become a bike-friendly city as it builds a well-connected network of cycle paths and bridges in the next two years.

Bike lanes run from Yas Island into the city and plans are under way to connect Arabian Gulf Street with Saadiyat Island, and Reem Island with the Eastern Mangroves, said Alnekhaira Alkhyeli, chief executive of Abu Dhabi Cycling Club.

“The more infrastructure and facilities there are for cycling, the more cyclists you will see,” he said.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, biking has surged in popularity and more people are joining cycling groups to stay fit and connect with like-minded people.

“We ride from Yas Island to Corniche through the Saadiyat highway, then we stop at Hudayriat and we do a few laps there,” said Mohamed Al Kaabi, a member of the Rabdan Cycling Team.

“Then we go to Arabian Gulf Street and ride towards Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.”

Cyclists often ride on Sheikh Zayed Bridge towards Khalifa City and back to Yas Island.

“We cycled around Abu Dhabi many times in small groups,” said Mr Al Kaabi, an Emriati flight engineer, 42.

“We used to do it as a big group, but because of Covid-19 we have limited it to five riders in a group.”

Cycle paths across Abu Dhabi. Roy Cooper / The National 
Cycle paths across Abu Dhabi. Roy Cooper / The National 

The team has been cycling in the city for six years.

“We started as four people and now we are around 35,” he said

“It is much safer now because of the new tracks around Abu Dhabi.

“On the right side of the Saadiyat Island highway, you can see many cyclists in big groups at the weekend.”

The cycling route on Arabian Gulf Street is 90 per cent complete and makes it easier to bike to different areas, said Mr Al Kaabi.

“I tried it two days ago and managed to go from Hudayriat to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre and back,” he said.

But there are still road hazards for cyclists to be aware of.

“We face issues only when we reach an unfinished track,” he said.

“When you reach Al Bateen roundabout from Hudayriat Island, there is a track but it is incomplete. So you have to ride on the main road which is a risk.”

He said more tracks were needed along the city's main streets.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, biking has surged in popularity and more people are joining cycling groups to stay fit and connect with like-minded people. Victor Besa / The National
Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, biking has surged in popularity and more people are joining cycling groups to stay fit and connect with like-minded people. Victor Besa / The National

“The incomplete tracks stop us abruptly. It can be risky if someone is riding at a high speed and reaches the end of an incomplete track,” said Mr Al Kaabi.

“In two to three years, Abu Dhabi will be a bike-friendly city, now that the island is almost 80 per cent connected.

“During Covid-19, I receive a call almost every day from people who want to buy a bike or to ask for instructions on cycling.”

The Desert Shield Fitness cycling team also reported a significant increase in the number of bikers since the beginning of the year.

“There has been a big jump,” said Abdulla Al Blooshi, co-founder of Desert Shield Fitness, 42.

“When we used to go running or cycling on the Corniche or Hudayriat Island before Covid-19, we barely found other runners or cyclists.

“Now the places are full, you can barely find a parking spot. I guess this is one of the positive things about the coronavirus precautionary measures. It has made people more aware about cycling and running.

“People were forced to find alternatives to the gym.”

Mohammed Ibrahim, 33, a Jordanian fitness trainer, was the first member of Mr Al Blooshi’s team.

“I started to train for a triathlon [for the first time] in September last year. I cycled alone for a couple of months,” Mr Ibrahim said.

He was joined by Rolf Jager, 21, in January.

The three men trained for the ITU World Triathlon Series that was scheduled to take place earlier this year but was cancelled.

The team now has 12 members and they cycle about 70 kilometres every day.

“It takes one man to start, and it is like a ripple effect,” said Mr Al Blooshi.

“Cycling starts as a painful experience, but when you finish the workout you feel so energetic and happy.

“We cycled around Al Ain city, and then up and down Jebel Hafit.

“Even after the gyms re-opened, people continued to cycle.

“There are many cycling teams now and each has around 50 cyclists. We assist them with a support car and ambulance on longer rides.”

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Updated: October 23, 2020 05:47 PM

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