DUBAI // More than 8,600 bicycles have been confiscated by traffic police this year, resulting in a sharp decline in the number of fatal accidents, authorities say.
The confiscated bicycles are sold at auction but their owners, many of whom rely on them for work, say the seizures are an overreaction.
"The police said I should not be riding my cycle on roads where cars go at more than 60kph. I didn't know that," said Bijoy Joseph, who rides daily from Jumeirah to Al Barsha.
"I just wish they didn't keep our cycles because it's very expensive for us. Buses don't take us where we need to go. Cycling is the only way we can reach places on our own."
But police said fewer accidents showed how effective the measure was.
"The number of people killed in bicycle accidents has dropped due to this measure," said Lt Col Saif Al Mazroui, the deputy head of the Dubai Police traffic department.
Only one person died in a cycling accident in the first nine months of this year, compared with seven in the same period last year.
The total number of accidents dropped by about a third, as 15 accidents were registered in the first nine months of this year compared with 22 in the same period last year.
The number of bicycles seized in Dubai more than doubled this year.
Officers have seized 8,650 bicycles, compared with 3,960 bicycles in the same period last year, Dubai Police statistics show.
However, in the past two years the number of people using bicycles has increased, say traffic police, with most using them for transport rather than sport.
All riders must wear a helmet and reflective vests, and bicycles must have lights on the back and front.
Cycling is not allowed on main roads with a limit of more than 80kph and inner roads with a limit above 60kph.
"Many cyclists drive along highways such as Emirates Road and Sheikh Zayed Road, and this is dangerous," Lt Col Al Mazroui said.
Police said workers were responsible for most offences.
Rahman Abdul, a delivery man in the Burjuman area, said he thought it was safer to ride his bicycle in the opposite direction to traffic.
"I thought I should ride so the cars can see me clearly. I didn't know it was against the rules," Mr Abdul said.
"How can I afford a new cycle? My boss says it's my fault so he won't get me another one. Now how will I send money home? How will I find work?"
Social workers say it is vital to make workers understand the importance of safety.
"It's their livelihood," said Sofia Bhatti, the project manager of a Dubai charity that helps to provide workers with clothes and toiletries. "We need to do something constructive to help.
"We would like to ensure they are protected with the right equipment. The police are doing their job but we could raise awareness about safety among the labourers."
Some workers said they sometimes ignored the rules to get to places faster.
"I know I should not ride on Al Mankhool Road but it's the fastest way for me to get to my job," said Rizwan Ahmed, a plumber, whose bicycle was recently confiscated.
Anil, a van driver, said he had little sympathy for cyclists who did not obey the rules.
Anil said he witnessed a fatal accident last month in which a cyclist without a helmet was knocked down while riding across an unlit road.
"Once their cycle is confiscated, they will think hard before riding on a busy highway and without safety equipment," he said.
"It's for their own safety. If they don't care about their own life, who will?"
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