Friday, April 07, 2006

Think bike

Finally Sharjah Municipality has decided to do something positive about the irresponsible suicidal two-wheeled hooligans who terrorise the neighbourhoods. Not the local chapter of Hell's Angels; I'm referring to those wobbling menaces who weave in and out of the traffic without regard for life or property. As a matter of course, pedal cyclists here ride on the wrong side of the road, never use lights, and often weave in and out of queues of (sometimes moving) motor vehicles.

However, Sharjah's proposed ban has very little to do with traffic safety and everything to do with appearance. Scrap dealers often use bicycles to transport cardboard and other waste, and the Municipality's first priority is remove these from the public gaze. The thing is, using an old-style rod-braked single-speed boneshaker to transport scrap looks so-o-o Third World. Sharjah is of course a metropolis comprising 21st century edifices of glittering mirrored glass all soaring skywards.

I have had my car scratched by some old ironwork poking out from a bicycle. Before I could stop the perpetrator, he disappeared into the distance riding between two rows of oncoming cars, on the wrong side of a dual carriageway.

The reasoning behind riding on the wrong side of the road is that on the sub-continent a bicycle is regarded as a pedestrian, not as a vehicle. We all know that it's safer to face oncoming traffic when walking on a road with no footway. It is nevertheless alarming to enter a roundabout and find a bicycle crossing your bows from the wrong side. Stamp on the brakes to avoid flattening him and get shunted from behind.

We are told that the bicycle ban does not extend to children, delivery boys or commuters. Presumably this is provided they're not carrying any flattened cardboard boxes. We are also advised that anyone caught cycling after the new rule has come into force will have their machine confiscated and melted down into paper clips. There was a plan to ban only unregistered bicycles, but this fell over when someone realised that there was no way of registering one. I could write a Pythonesque sketch about this.

"...You don't need a licence for a bicycle"
"Yes you do. Here's mine. Look."
"But this is a Permit To Have Your Car Resprayed with 'Car Resprayed' crossed out and 'Bicycle' written in in crayon."
"The man didn't have the right form..."


But it's OK to ride on the footways, provided, that is, that they're not covered in wheelie bins, potted plants, steps, parked cars or sheesha pipes. The one thing that is very unlikely to be found on the footway is a pedestrian. No-one walks in this town. It is also OK to cycle for recreation along the sea-front or in the park. As it is going to be illegal to ride from residence to the park, are we going to be treated to the unlikely sight of pedestrians carrying their bikes to the Corniche in order to go for a ride? Incidentally, a lot of the Municipality parks include prohibitions on bicycles, dogs, campfires, topless sunbathing and immoral activities [sic].

People do not ride bikes here out of choice. If you were earning AED 300 a month gross, - yes that's less than fifty quid - would you go everywhere by taxi? How would you afford a car?

The pro-bike camp is on record to say the solution is to provide bicycle facilities. Cycle lanes: the two-wheeler panacea! Given the local habit of putting a motor vehicle on every square inch of available asphalt, how is a metre strip of cycle lane going to remain clear?

Frankly, the idea to ban bicycles seems to have come out of the same Good Ideas Lab as the inflatable dartboard.

2 comments:

Keefieboy said...

Mr Goat

See http://uaecommunity.blogspot.com/

secretdubai said...

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