Long-term strategy essential for cycling success in Abu Dhabi

Enhanced infrastructure, increased awareness and a long-term strategy are key to making the capital cyclist-friendly, the president of the Abu Dhabi Triathlon Club says.

Daniel Hughes and his wife Rachel and sons Jonathan, left, 11, and Lachlan, 13, are avid bike riders. Delores Johnson / The National
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ABU DHABI // Enhanced infrastructure, increased awareness and a long-term strategy are key to making the capital cyclist-friendly, the president of the Abu Dhabi Triathlon Club says.

"Cycle tracks and cycle lanes need to be built for road bikes that can be cycled at 30kph to 40kph," says Danny Hughes, an events manager at Gulf Multi Sport LLC and a supporter of The National's #CycleToWorkUAE initiative.

“Drivers need to be aware that cyclists have rights and that with minimal protection, unlike drivers in their cars, cyclists need to be given a safe amount of room,” he said. “Cyclists also need the support of government and police.”

Mr Hughes, who is part of the Abu Dhabi Striders and Abu Dhabi Tri Club communities, enjoys running and triathlons. Each year, he travels overseas once or twice to compete in Ironman or Challenge events.

Last year, he and his wife, Rachel, went to Challenge Batemans Bay, Ironman 70.3 Norway and Challenge Britain. Their sons Lachlan, 13, and Jonathan, 11, are also into cycling and are members of the Abu Dhabi Tri Kids.

“Now that both Rach and I cycle regularly, the boys want to get involved and they both proudly ride road bikes, as well as having their BMX bikes with friends,” Mr Hughes says.

Cyclists are the most vulnerable road users apart from pedestrians because they lack the protection of a vehicle shell.

“It is really important to understand that cyclists are very exposed on the roads and even the most minor impact could cause a fatality,” he says.

“Unfortunately, footpaths and congested cycleways are not cycle friendly and cyclists pose a risk to pedestrians.

“Because cycling is important for health, fitness and the environment, motorists should understand that we need access to the roads as well.”

Cyclists must also understand that obeying traffic rules is very important for their safety, Mr Hughes says.

Mrs Hughes, who started cycling two years ago and heads the Abu Dhabi Tri Kids, agrees.

“It’s also cyclists respecting the cars. I think there definitely needs to have a push to educate people about cycling on the roads.

“At the moment, a lot of people are afraid to cycle because you’ve got cars travelling at high speeds,” she says. “You’ll need pathways rather than the roads. For example, our kids live four kilometres from school.

“Will I ever allow them to cycle to school? No way, because even if there are paths there they would still need to be able cross the road without having to worry about high-speed cars.”

Mr Hughes recalls how he would regularly cycle to work when he lived near Perth in Western Australia for a few years.

When he moved to Abu Dhabi six years ago he took up road cycling with Raha Cycling, and they taught him a few things about training, safety and group etiquette.

“Drivers were very courteous in morning traffic and used to cyclists on the route I travelled,” he says. “Unfortunately if I was to cycle to work now I would need to travel from Khalifa City A and we just don’t have the infrastructure and awareness in place to ride this route safely.”

On January 13, the couple will join other riders in support of The National's #CycleToWorkUAE initiative.

“I think the initiative is great to start addressing awareness and lift the profile of cycling,” he says. “I just hope that people choose to cycle in groups and are visible to motorists, who are paying more attention during the day.”

Mrs Hughes likes the idea.

“It’s absolutely fantastic. There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t follow other countries such as in Europe where you see more people on bikes than in cars. So it would be great if we could work towards that.”

rruiz@thenational.ae