Dubai: When I cycled across 6 lanes of Sheikh Zayed Road instead of driving

I was among the thousands that pedalled down one of the busiest roads in the UAE as part of Dubai Ride 2023

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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Thousands of cyclists take over Sheikh Zayed Road for Dubai Ride 2023. Photos: Neeraj Murali
Thousands of cyclists take over Sheikh Zayed Road for Dubai Ride 2023. Photos: Neeraj Murali

Published: Sun 12 Nov 2023, 4:06 PM

Last updated: Mon 13 Nov 2023, 10:27 AM

I have been living in an apartment near the first interchange on the Sheikh Zayed Road for more than a decade. I drive on the arterial road every single day, merging into the flow of vehicles that never stops.

On Sunday morning, however, the whole highway was emptied of cars for nearly six hours. Cycles with top speeds of 20kmph replaced vehicles that usually zoom by at 120kmph. I was among the thousands that pedalled down one of the busiest roads in the UAE for the Dubai Ride. Riders in colourful attires descended on the road as early as 3.30am as it transformed into a giant cycling track.

Starting in front of Museum of the Future, I decided to ride the family-friendly 4km-route that took me over the Dubai Canal before making a U-turn and finishing off near One Central. For me, the best part was riding under the Salik gate without having to worry about whether I charged my account or not.

The weather was cool and breezy and having so many enthusiastic people around you lends a different vibe to the event. There were water stations at multiple locations and DJs were playing music to keep the mood upbeat. I watched families bring out their picnic chairs and settle into the grassy area around the Al Safa area to watch and wave at the passing cyclists.

Families participate

The biggest highlight for me was the number of families I saw on the roads. From 4-year-olds to teenagers, there were plenty of youngsters riding their bikes along with their friends and families.

The purpose of DFC is to make Dubai the fittest city in the world. When you have an entire generation that is willing to wake up at 4 or 5am and bike across several kilometres just for the fun of it, I think we are well on our way to this goal.

American expat Burton and his 6-year-old son Anderson were returning for their third edition of the Dubai Ride. The duo, who live in Jumeirah, said they usually ride to school every day. “It is a great way to be healthy and beat the traffic,” said Burton. “And it is our morning time together.

So cycling is very central to our lives.”

Riding in the little back seat along with his father, Anderson told me that his favourite part of the ride was going downhill over the Dubai Canal bridge. “It was so fast,” he said. He also said that he can’t wait to go to school and tell his best friend Doju all about the ride.”

I also met Chris and Lottee, who came along with their 12-year-old daughter Exdee and 7-year-old son Kiel. The family had set off from Sharjah at 4.30am to make it to the ride on time. “Since I am transporting 4 cycles, I fold them and keep it in the car,” said Chris. “So I wanted to make it here early so that I have enough time to fix it and join the ride.”

Showcasing beliefs

For many, it was also a platform to showcase their beliefs. Some carried flags, while others wore badges, pins and clothing items. But one cyclist who caught my eye was Ajmal, who was riding with 'Earth' in his bike trailer.

“I am taking care of mother Earth like a baby,” he said. “My T-shirt says that we need to take care of mother Earth with love and peace. There is a lot of destruction happening around the world. It is high time we start caring for our Earth.” An avid cyclist, Ajmal rides the Dubai Ride every year with a specific theme.

Several others made their support for Palestine known during the event. While some wore T-shirts and pins to support the country, others chose to wear the traditional black and white Keffiyeh scarf. Youngster Abdulla, who was riding with his brother Moosa wore the scarf to the ride.

“I love wearing the Keffiyeh,” he said. “And today, it seems more relevant than ever. So I knew I had to wear it when I came for this event.” The brothers, who regularly cycle around their home in Al Khan, were dropped off at the event by their father.

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