Dubai: A major push by Dubai government authorities to create a labyrinth of bicycle paths, tracks and bike lanes across the emirate is paying huge dividends, say members of cycling groups.
Cycling tracks throughout Dubai are not only promoting a healthy lifestyle among residents but are also encouraging cyclists from around the world to visit world-class facilities, cyclists told Gulf News.
The returns on the investment stem from Dubai Roads and Transportation Authority’s (RTA) unveiling in 2012 of its Dubai Bicycle Master Plan, an ambitious initiative to build and maintain 900km of cycle paths across the city by 2020.
At present, popular cycling tracks are available in both Nad Al Sheba and Al Qudra among other locations, with both tracks in the midst of further developments.
“The government of Dubai has put in a lot of work in designing and building cycling tracks to ensure that both citizens and expats have an ideal and safe place to go and ride their bicycles,” said Stewart Howison, Founder of Cycle Safe Dubai.
“I’ve never seen a government entity put in as much effort into such programmes as in Dubai. These tracks are all accessible to the public for free, the only thing you have to buy is a bicycle and you’re good to go,” he said.
Stewart, who has also helped design the new cycle paths being developed by the RTA, told Gulf News that he founded his group more than six years ago, and has seen it expand every year as the enthusiasm for cycling in Dubai has grown.
“We have people from all nationalities, Arabs, Asians and Europeans. We’ve also noticed that many more Emiratis are coming along as well which is great. We now get hundreds of people to our weekly arranged events whereas when we started it was just a handful of people,” he said.
“Cycling appeals toeveryone, it doesn’t matter who you are, whether you’re a child or an adult, a professional athlete or just someone who’s looking to have a good time. We get people from diverse backgrounds who come and ride with us,” Howison said.
He also said he was confident that residents in Dubai would start using bicycles as a way of commuting to and from work as the city continues its development of cycle lanes.
“In Dubai, the infrastructure has a different set-up than London for example, which is why it’s more common to see cyclists commuting to work in London. However, as we continue to develop and build our cycle paths in Dubai, I’m sure we will start to see the same thing,” he explained.
“Things have to happen in stages, at the moment using bicycles as a means of transportation is not the preferred method in Dubai, but as the cycle lanes continue to develop and become more accessible to people across the Dubai, the change will happen in the long term,” he added.
Spencer Collard, an organiser of another cycling group, Dubai Roadsters, told Gulf News that Dubai’s efforts in providing cycling facilities for residents were better than most other countries, “Nowhere in the world do you see facilities being built that are as good as what we find in Dubai, like in Nad Al Sheba and Al Qudra,” he said.
“We’re very lucky that the government has invested a lot of money and effort into building these tracks. In Al Qudra they are also planning to extend the cycle path by 25km to 30km,” he added.
Collard said interest in cycling was on the rise in Dubai.
Neil Mckay, a cyclist from Scotland who has been biking for most of his life, told Gulf News that he was looking forward to more cycling tracks added onto the main roads.
“I personally prefer cycling on the roads, so I’m obviously positive about new cycling paths being added; we will have to wait and see how it turns out,” he said.
“I would say that Dubai is a bicycle-friendly city, especially when it comes to building tracks and facilities. The surface at Nad Al Sheba is excellent and is probably better than most of the roads in the UK,” he added.
Paul Almazan, from the Philippines, said that he started cycling only two months ago.
“As a new cyclist I am very happy with the cycling scene in Dubai; the infrastructure is great, and there continues to be more development to increase the availability and quality of the cycle tracks,” he told Gulf News.
The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) on Saturday announced the completion of the construction of 104-km cycling tracks in various parts of Dubai as part of the Dubai Bicycle Master Plan. The plan is aimed at providing 850km of strategic bikeways in central business district areas and newly developed localities as suitable transit alternatives for cycling enthusiasts.
The completed cycling tracks comprise a 23km-long track along Jumeirah Street, 1.4km track along Street No 7 which links Jumeirah Street with Al Mankhool Street, and a 1.6km track at the Mall of the Emirates station. Also included in the project is the 67-km track spanning Seih Assalam Road and Al Qudra Road as well as the 11km track at the centre of Bur Dubai covering Al Fuhaidi, Al Falah, Al Ghubaiba and Al Hisn Roads.
Al Qudra track: Roughly 130km (23km of new track added, not opened yet)
Nad Al Sheba: 7.5km (will be extended to 8.5 km by end of the month)
Dubai Autodrome: 2.5km