Cycling culture in Abu Dhabi is not well understood. Although it is hot, hot, hot four months out of the year, a growing number of people are parking their cars and traveling on two wheels instead. These intrepid adventurers constitute a minority in the richest emirate (where things like solid gold cars exist).
Unless people take to desert hiking (which isn’t really viable in the summer), there are few opportunities to breath fresh-ish air. Walking and biking on the Corniche creates one such opportunity, but some cyclists want to take their training to the next level. But they have to compete with Abu Dhabi’s drivers, who we have seen texting at the wheel, and who demonstrate outright hostility towards them.
The Abu Dhabi traffic police recently vented their frustration that foreigners insist on pedaling on highways, while the Department of Transport (DoT) announced its entrance into a twelve-month planning period for a Pedestrian and Bikeway Masterplan that would expand bike routes.
Once the planning stage is finished early next year, the DoT will begin work on newer, safer bike routes in tandem with the Urban Planning Council and the Department of Municipal Affairs.
The plan will be implemented in phases beginning in areas of high demand such as city centers and residential areas and would eventually spread throughout all urban areas. These pedestrian and bike friendly routes would be separated from car lanes. Which is a good thing.
Because for some people in Abu Dhabi, bumping bikes is the latest national sport.
One experienced cyclist, Rani Wehbe, told the National that people often jump out of nowhere and that some drivers do not fully respect the cyclist. This year, two cyclists have been injured and one was killed on the motorway.
A 19 year old Emirati who cycles along the Corniche said that expats typically stop when needed, while locals either don’t stop at all or purposely try to run over people on bicycles.
Other road users welcome the plan, provided that officials simultaneously launch a targeted awareness and enforcement campaign and ensure that the surfaces (unlike the smooth tiles lining parts of the Corniche) are bike-friendly in all weather conditions.
In the meantime, bike enthusiasts can either stick to an easy ride along the Corniche, the Yas Marine Circuit, or continue to defy death on the manic roadways.
:: The National
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image via get bent!