A child marathon enthusiast participates in the run on her bicycle. Image Credit: Arshad Ali, Gulf News

Manama: Doha is drawing up plans to become the region's first bicycle city.

"We have worked out the Qatar National Bicycle Master Plan to make Qatar the centre of bicycle in the Middle East," said Sa'ad Mohammad Khodr, senior transportation engineer at the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning.

Sa'ad added that people who are sceptical that Doha, with its scorching heat and high humidity levels, is a suitable location for a city which wants to turn cycling into a popular practice, should adopt a different attitude, especially considering that the weather is pleasant enough for bicycle riding at least six months of the year.

"People do not take to cycling, not because of the heat but, because it's not safe. Now in all our new projects we have to draw up a plan so that the streets are adapted to bicycle traffic," he said, in the Qatari daily The Peninsula on Friday.

The Qatari capital is already working on plans to set up bike lanes by refitting the existing roads to allow bicycle rides and increase safety for cyclists, Sa'ad said in a presentation at the Meed Qatar Transport Project 2010.

Roundabouts, a major feature in Gulf roads, remain a strong challenge. However, Sa'ad said the plan included short-term and long-term solutions, such as developing under-path cycle routes for cyclists to manoeuvre through safely.

"All this has been detailed and studied in our plan," he said. Such an undertaking required a lot of detailed planing that includes building an infrastructure for cycling, with bike tracks, roundabout crossings and places where bicycles can be picked up or parked.

"This was a complete national master plan that we did," he said. The cycle routes would cover almost the whole country, from recreation spots to major roads and local streets. Bike tracks could also be created on existing roads to make bicycle traffic safe.

"It's not just the bicycle as a means of transportation, but it's about creating more chances for people to have leisure time," he was quoted as saying.

Bicycles as a means of transportation are popular mainly among young boys and Asian expatriates. Last October, Dubai transport officials announced plans for 4,000 more bicycle parking spots across the city.