x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Bike lane from Arabian Ranches to open by summer

Enthusiasts say the sport is experiencing a surge in popularity.

The route will be built in two phases, the second of which is scheduled for completion in July.
The route will be built in two phases, the second of which is scheduled for completion in July.

DUBAI // A bike lane from Arabian Ranches to Bab Al Shams will be open by summer, transport authorities say.

The track will start near the Arabian Ranches exit on the Dubai Outer Bypass Road and run about 20 kilometres along Al Qudra Road before turning right to Bab Al Shams for another 5km.

The track is to run in both directions, totalling almost 50km.

It will be built in two phases, the second of which is scheduled for completion in July, and is part of a wider plan to install 900km of cycling tracks in the emirate by 2020.

"Phase one started in February and phase two will start in March, and both will have a four-month completion date," said Stewart Howison of Cycle Safe Dubai, a group that organises cycling races and social rides.

The route is already popular with cyclists. Each Friday throughout the year, hundreds wake for 6.30am rides organised by Cycle Safe Dubai on routes of 35km to 100km.

"The authorities are getting behind [cycling] and it is much easier to obtain permission to put on events," said Mr Howison.

"They know exactly what's going on. The police did the rolling road closure for us two months ago and it was as if they did it every weekend."

Enthusiasts say the sport is experiencing a surge in popularity.

Other popular areas to train include a shared bike and running track in Jumeirah and the camel racing track in Nad Al Sheba.

Another cycling group, the Dubai Roadsters, regularly attracts up to 200 participants for its Friday rides, which start at 6am and run along many routes.

"I am happy to see every new metre of track and extremely thankful," said Wolfgang Hohmann, the owner of Wolfi's Bike Shop who organises the rides.

"There are some areas that are used around Meydan and Nad Al Sheba and there should be more awareness with signage."

Mr Hohmann said the sport was growing at an exponential pace and expected this to increase as more tracks were added.

Tracks designed for motor racing are also finding a second use.

Every Wednesday the Dubai Autodrome hosts up to 300 Lycra-clad cyclists clocking up laps, while a similar event at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi attracts up to 500 enthusiasts every Tuesday evening.

Adrian Holman, owner of ProBike in Al Barsha, estimated that the number of cyclists had doubled in the past year.

"I think it's growing through word of mouth and others decide to join in," Mr Holman said.

"I can't say it's because of a massive growth in population but it is just part of the city growing over the last 10 to 20 years."

He said many people preferred the sport to running, which puts a greater strain on the heart, or swimming, which he said was limited by the number of pools available.

"Cycling can be done at a fairly low intensity," Mr Holman said. "If you run, you hammer away at your knees. Cycling is good for low heart rate, good weight loss. You also get to relax and look around and see some of the wildlife, which you don't get to do with other sports."

The Roads and Transport Authority says 38km of the proposed 900km of bike lanes have already been created, mainly around Jumeirah.

The authority has also said all major metro stations would have bicycle racks. "Up to now around 300 racks have been installed, and within the 500-metre radius of each major metro station the infastructure for cycling will be improved," said Nasser Abu Shehab, the authority's director of strategic transport planning.

eharnan@thenational.ae