The RTA had announced that by the end of the first quarter of this year it would have constructed as many as 3,000 bicycle parking spaces for Dubai Metro users to encourage cycling and to encourage an integrated and sustainable transport system.
Encouraging cycling as a means of transportation is one of the goals of RTA because it will help ease heavy usage of vehicles and thereby reduce environmental pollution.
In 2009 it presented the Bicycle Master Plan that was to cover all areas of Dubai and would be implemented in phases depending on certain criteria, like population density, locations of activity centers, access to metro and other public transport stations and safety requirements.
Parking spaces for cyclers can indeed be found at different stations along the Red Line, however, tracks leading to these parking spaces are scarce.
Asked at which stage the developments are right now, engineer Nasser Abu Shehab, director of Strategic Transport Planning of RTA answered that the priority is given to Metro stations.
“RTA’s next phase of the Bicycle Master Plan includes providing bike tracks in areas closer to the Metro Red Line such as connecting the existing Jumeirah Beach Road to the nearby Red Line Metro stations on the Sheikh Zayed Road.”
“At the moment all metro stations are designed for easy pedestrian and bicycle accesses within 500m radius,” explains Nasser and RTA has urged residents to use bicycles particularly for short trips.
“We rarely see people who commute by cycling,” says Wolfi, owner of Wolfi’s Bike Shop and a cycling expert in Dubai. “Our personnel come to work by bicycle, but that is more of an exception.”
According to Wolfi cycling in the UAE is more of a sport, which is growing in popularity due to an increased availability of bicycles in the country. “There is a group of 120-150 people meeting regularly to go biking. We do routes of 60-80 kilometers.
“There are certainly places where people can cycle, such as in Mushrif Park, around Meydan and at the Lakes. But these are places where you would go to first, and then ride your bike.”
At the moment bicycle paths are provided on Jumeirah Road and Dhiyafa Road, and road work is on-going at Mankhool Road. However, the problem lies with the main roads, thinks Wolfi.
“It is possible to move from one place to another by using these designated roads, but the problem is that you cannot cross main roads such Sheikh Zayed Road. You could never get to the other side.”
“Biking will not be safe near major freeways such as Emirates Roads, Al-Khail Road and similar high traffic roads and on un-controlled and unpaved areas,” acknowledges RTA.
“However, roads with signalised control crossings, lower speeds and lower traffic volumes are more accessible and safer for bikers.”
At the moment cycling as a means of transportation is limited to the areas of Bur Dubai and Deira, where many low-wage workers commute to work by bike or use the bike for delivery service to nearby places.
According to Wolfi these areas are not very safe for riding a bike. “It is very difficult to ride a bike there, and the bikes that people sell and buy in these areas are not safe. They are of very low quality,” he says.
RTA plans to provide dedicated bike ways in the Bur Dubai CBD area and aims to make the means of transport more accessible throughout the whole city, Nasser Abu Shehab explains.
For now, focus will be on the metro stations aiming to integrate all metro stations with dedicated cycling tracks and parking space.