x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Cyclists fear for their safety

Many cyclists in Dubai have expressed their feelings about the lack of safety while cycling on the roads.

DUBAI // Many cyclists complain that public roads are unsafe and they have to stick to parks and bike paths.

One expatriate, Louis Abboud, from Lebanon, was a cyclist for seven years in his home country and in the United States but gave up his hobby when he moved to Dubai two years ago.

"I never felt there were proper places where I could cycle," he said. "I used to cycle a lot but I just cycle indoors now because I don't feel safe."

Palestinian Zara Hannoun cycles outdoors once a week.

"People aren't comfortable with cyclists on the roads in the UAE," she said. "But I think the community is growing and it's getting safer."

Ms Hannoun has been cycling for two years as part of Cycling4Gaza, an initiative that brings people from around the world together to take part in a yearly bike challenge that raises funds for Gaza.

Thirty UAE residents have been training with Ms Hannoun this year on Al Qudra Cycle Path, a dedicated track considered by cyclists to be the safest in the country.

"They didn't have the cycle track in 2011 so we would cycle with three vehicles that escorted us to make sure we were safe," Ms Hannoun said. "We even had friends drive with us to protect us."

CycleSafe Dubai helped design the track in Nad Al Sheba, which leads to the Bab Al Shams resort.

"I cycled twice on freeways and high roads and I never did it again," said Stewart Howison, the company's founder. "Riding on a main road or a freeway without police escorts and public safety security from the Roads and Transports Authority is incredibly dangerous."

Mr Howison cycles six days a week on dedicated paths in Nad Al Sheba and on the 50-kilometre loop at the Dubai Cycling Course.

"We aim to get cyclists off the road and under the safety of the Dubai Sports Council, the Dubai Police and the RTA," he said. "It's a step towards building public awareness.

"Coming from South Africa, it was relatively safe to cycle on roads because the culture and driving style is to be aware of people on the roads, but there were never any cyclists on the road before, here. That's when I moved to safer paths for cycling."

Palestinian Omar Abu Omar, a regular road runner, said drivers behaved as though they owned the roads.

"They don't care and they don't look, even if you follow the rules," he said. "This country isn't made for running or cycling. You can't blame people or change mentalities but maybe the authorities will do more about it. People need to watch out for pedestrians, they're human beings as well."

cmalek@thenational.ae