When Nicholas Brooks is not working as a business development manager for a software company in the UAE, he can often be found riding his bicycle with hundreds of others each week. Mr Brooks, a co-founder of Cycle Safe Dubai, a non-profit organisation, discusses what the group is about.
How long have you been cycling?
Seriously, maybe 18 years. I used to row for my main school back home in Melbourne, and we got told we should be riding our bikes. My dad's quite a bit of a cyclist … He's now 70 and does a few hundred kilometres a week. He sort of spurred me on a little bit.
Why did you and others start Cycle Safe Dubai?
Stewart [another founder] and I used to cycle together, and other groups … tend to be a magnet for alpha males who push too heavily to be in the front. We decided to go riding by ourselves, and a few others came along. Now we have 1,300 members. We run rides on a Friday and Saturday that go 35 [to] 100 kilometres.
How many cyclists usually come out each week?
About 350. We did the Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge in December; we had 670 people cycling around Dubai for that. We had some great support from Dubai Police and RTA [the Roads and Transport Authority), which we're now working with together a lot more.
In what sense?
At the start [of Cycle Safe], there weren't really races or rides in Dubai. Melbourne has a big cycling community, whereas over here it's a great climate for it but a lack of understanding. We're trying to get the message out there should be more cyclists, and that's why we put these rides on and races.
How long has the group been cycling together?
Just under two years. It got to the point where we had so many people riding with us that we needed more than one car to follow us. We have a safety car on a lot of rides. Everyone's got a car either behind them, or within a couple of minutes, just in case someone needs to be picked up or brought back to the group.
Why? What might happen to them?
If they're a bit slow, break a spoke or something happens mechanical. It's mainly for safety. We tend to say they're not a taxi.
Is there a cost to join the group?
We take a Dh500 membership, which assists us with paying for the petrol weekly, [bicycle] servicing … and we pay the drivers now. It covers the supplies for the medical kits. But they get a jersey [and] safety band with their emergency contact details.