With no cycle lanes to travel through Doha’s busy roads, Qatar’s many cyclists are becoming a more obvious and numerous danger to themselves and motorists alike as they tend to take the law into their own hands and follow their own rules regarding their chosen method of transport.
Whereas perhaps the most obvious danger is faced by the cyclists themselves as they attempt to manoeuvre fast-moving roundabouts and other potentially lethal road obstacles, the recklessness displayed by many also causes serious concern to other road users.
Cyclists are regularly seen riding up the wrong sides of the roads, and while many of them are accomplished bike riders, some are less skilled, and are not capable of keeping close to the side of the road and maintaining a straight line.
With most of the cyclists coming from the expatriate, low-income population, it is understandable that they would want to use the cheapest buys they can acquire, but this can lead to safety issues.
However, this is not the case for all Qatar’s cyclists, as there are actually a number of groups of road and mountain bikers who meet regularly to partake in long journeys throughout the country and away from Doha.
But they intentionally attempt to avoid the traffic and tend to ride particularly early on weekend mornings.
It seems that the real problems lie with cyclists who have to use bikes to commute or as part of their work.
One of the main complaints, voiced by a number of drivers in relation to cyclists on the road, is their choice to ride the wrong way – something that seems to occur all over the city.
“They are ignorant of any sort of rules or common sense,” said one driver, “although it must be difficult to ride a bike here, cyclists still have to be more aware of others around them, and take measures to be as safe as possible.”
Another motorist pointed out the worrying lack of safety measures taken by cyclists, emphasising the lack of adequate protective equipment or lighting.
“The authorities should ensure that all bicycles sold in Qatar have correct lights on,” he said, adding “at night it is so difficult to see them and accidents could be prevented if the bikes were all fitted with small lamps.”
Other problems people pointed out included the carrying of illegal loads – something often done by grocery store delivery cyclists – and also the transportation of passengers, which endangers not only the driver and passenger, but any surrounding drivers as well.
As with so many problems on the roads this seems to be an issue of education; cyclists are not aware of any rules and regulations, and many may not have learnt any code of conduct for riding their bikes on the road.
With the erratic and dangerous driving which is occurring on a regular basis (despite the number of cyclists decreasing in the summer), drivers have suggested something should be done, because as one motorist put it: “I don’t think cyclists here realise what they are doing.”
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