Cycling is gaining in popularity in the UAE. Like all sporting activities, it has its risks and rewards.
It brings people together and helps one get fit, but without precautions, it can be dangerous, even deadly.
On October 11, 2012, a 30-year-old triathlete Richard Holland suffered serious injury while out for a ride.
While out training for an Ironman competition, he was hit by a car, leaving him in a coma. He was in full safety gear at the time of the accident. Today Holland’s condition is progressing and he is responsive to an extent.
Judy Rothchild, his mother, said: “He is able to smile and laugh at funny things. Unfortunately, he still has no motor control and no movement in his body at all.”
They’re fundraising to help in his treatment and lifelong care. For details on how you can help, log on to www.backonyourbike.com
Holland’s accident is a rarity but to find out what are some of the issues cyclists in the UAE may face, Gulf News spoke to two cycling experts, Wolfgang Hohmann, founder of Wolfi’s Bike Shop in Dubai and the Dubai Roadsters and Stewart Howison, founder of Cycle Safe.
Knowing where to cycle
The cycling scene in the UAE has evolved a lot over the past few years and as the sport becomes popular, more cycle paths are cropping up.
Cycling on roads can be dangerous and it is important to know where one can cycle safely, according to Howison. He said: “You just need to look for the information.”
Information on tracks and paths open to the public and their timings can be found on websites belonging to the Dubai Roadsters, Yas Marina Circuit, Dubai Autodrome and Cycle Safe Dubai.
Also, for beginners, Hohmann said they can contact the Dubai Roadsters and they will provide them with a welcome pack, which includes cycling guidelines and maps and directions to various tracks.
No country has perfect weather and the UAE is no exceptions. However, both Howison and Hohmann agreed that the conditions here are ideal for cycling.
Howison said: “The weather could be a negative, but the same can be said if you were in the UK, with the rain. Here you get eight months of good conditions to cycle in.”
Hohmann said that some may complain about the heat, but people just need to learn to cycle in the morning and find the best places to go.
He said: “You have to go to certain areas, you can’t start a ride right from your house.”
Lack of driver awareness
Perhaps the biggest issue is the lack of awareness of cyclists on the roads. This is something some are quick to pin on drivers, but Howmann believes this issue has several aspects to it.
He said: “I think first of all we need to accept that people don’t look for it [cyclists] because it is not a common sight. Be aware that people might not have seen you, even if you feel they looked at you, maybe they just looked through you. I think that cyclists need to drive a bit more defensively.”
This is something Howison agrees with. He added that the authorities have done a lot to provide awareness.
He said: “Now cars are paying a lot more attention to cyclists and paying them a lot more respect.”
According to Hohmann and Howison the best thing a cyclist can do to ensure their safety is be pro-active, drive defensively, stick to the tracks and most of all wear proper safety gear, such as helmets, reflective clothing and outfit their bikes with lights and reflectors.
Nothing is ever completely safe, but with a few precautions it can be a great activity.
Hohmann said: “Things happen, and sometimes it can be dangerous, but that can be said about anything. Driving on Shaikh Zayed Road can be dangerous every day.”
Fitness and friendship
Howison said: “Cycling is probably one of the most social sports you can take up. It’s being referred to as the new golf. Before you would have corporations out on the golf course, having meetings. Now people are doing the same with cycling. You can hold a meeting on the bikes, and as you are in a big group there is nowhere for anyone to go.”
Another benefit is that cycling is a great replacement for a fitness regime.
Howison said: “Cycling is a great way to continue a workout programme without any real impact on the joints and bones.”
It also has very little impact on the environment.
Hohmann said: “I think the world would be a better place if more people would use a bicycle. It would be more sustainable. It would be better for all of us to exercise more and get the stress out and to be more social.