DUBAI: The theft of bicycles in Dubai's biggest community of cycle users — the Dubai Dry Docks workers — has become so common that people have come to accept it as a fact of daily life.
An army of an estimated 8,000 people belonging to around 60 nationalities work at the docks, one of the world's biggest merchant ship-repair facilities that opened in 1983.
Nearly every worker uses a bicycle to travel from their camp off Jumeirah Road to the ships docked for repairs or overhaul — covering a distance of up to 3km. Each change of shift unleashes a constant flow of cycle-clad workers.
A cycle helps cut a 20 to 30-minute walk from the docks to the mess hall (workers are provided free food and accommodation) to about five minutes.
Victims report incidents to security and one worker was also reportedly sacked after being found with someone else's bike.
However, the nicking has apparently gone unabated. "There's not much you can do but report the incident to security," says Edgar, a 43-year-old mechanic from Cebu, Philippines. He claims he lost two bikes in five years. "It's impossible to trace the person who took your bike. It's no use looking for it. You just buy a new one."
A shop within the compound sells China-made bikes for between Dh300 and Dh500, a small fortune for workers who get a basic pay of under Dh1,500.
Five to six workers share a room in mid-rise quarters, while others live in nearby districts. Besides mess halls, the camp has internet facilities too. Workers use a special underground tunnel built three years ago that links their camp to the docks.
A security guard informs XPRESS that he receives reports "often", but declines to say how many lost bicycles are reported daily. An incident reporting procedure is in place and an investigation is conducted, but it has not stopped the phenomenon. The sheer number of cyclists makes it impossible to catch the cycle thieves. "If you don't use a cycle, you will be late for work. Either that or you must come to work much earlier," says Rahul, an Indian scaffolding installer. Binu, an Indian clerk who has worked at the docks for over 10 years, says he has lost two bikes already. "It [stealing] is common. There are several thousands of us here. It's like looking for a needle in big yard."
Bangladeshi Golam Rashul, a 45-year-old welding foreman, says he has lost three bicycles. "If you lose your bike, where will you look for it? If someone breaks the lock and takes your bike outside, it's impossible to find it. You can't spend all day looking for it. I just buy a new one the same day I lose my bike. You can't stay up all day checking bikes."
- 8,000: Workers at Dubai Dry Docks
- 60: Nationalities