02 July 2004

Cycling to Work?

Al Ain, one of the smaller emirates inland from Dubai, has now truly joined the Western lifestyle: the municipality is going to set up bike paths for the increasing number of cyclists.

A story in Gulf News lists some shocking facts: only 0.5% of cyclists wear helmets, only 1.1% carry lights at night, 46.3% cycle on the wrong side of the road, and incredibly, the authorities keep no figures on bike-related accidents.

The problem of cycling on the wrong side of a main road stems from the fact that a lot of people who cycle here are from the sub-continent, where this is accepted behaviour, as it is considered safer when the cyclist can see the oncoming traffic, a bit like walking in the county in the UK.

That no-one wears a helmet or carries lights should be no surprise, as the only people who cycle here do it because they can't afford to run a car or take the bus (which is pretty cheap already). It's really to hot to ride a bike, but we sometimes see people with the tools of their trade (garden shears, toolbox or even a lawnmower) on the pannier rack cycling from villa to villa for work.

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