Dubai: Hardly a week goes by without Punnakkan Mohammad Ali attending community meetings or cultural events.
The Indian community leader has been omnipresent in the Keralite community’s socio-cultural arena for almost three decades in the UAE. He has won many awards for social service and often gets featured in the Malayalam media.
However, this 53-year-old, who works at the office of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, still cycles to his meetings or events. In fact, he cycles to work and other places too — it’s been a habit for the past 28 years.
Every day, Ali starts from his staff accommodation in Zabeel at 7am and cycles his way to his office near the Drydocks in Jumeirah and he pedals back at 2.30pm.
“Cycling is a part of my daily life,” Ali told Gulf News on the UAE Car Free Day on Monday.
He said he extensively used the cycle to commute even before he arrived in Dubai in 1990 from his hometown in Kannur. “I used to pedal around my whole village in those days.”
He admits when he first came to Dubai, he wanted to learn driving. “I tried to get a driving licence. But when I failed three times, I decided not to make any more attempts, though it was not a costly affair those days. I felt it was better to get a bicycle again.”
In the 90’s, Ali said the number of buses was very less. “I used to cycle to the Bur Dubai bus station and take the bus to Sharjah. When I had to go to Deira, I would park the cycle at the abra station and take the abra.”
With the arrival of Dubai Metro in 2009, Ali started taking the train whenever possible.
Ali attributes his fitness to his cycling. But he adds that cycling also carries risks as he has met with an accident on six occasions, the most recent being last month. “I have suffered injuries. Once I had a miraculous escape when I was knocked down by a car and got thrown to the middle of the road.”
Ali, who wears a hard hat while cycling, said Dubai Police’s move to make helmets and safety vests mandatory for cyclists has helped bring down casualties. He also welcomed the introduction of cycling tracks in some areas of the city. “We need more such tracks to encourage more people to take up cycling as a mode of transport.”
He said, “People have asked me why I don’t buy a motorbike at least. I think that will not give me as much health benefits. Also, the cycle is the most eco-friendly vehicle,” said Ali.