A walk on the wild side

Air-conditioned bus shelters, golf carts and travelators are the norm in Dubai, but Courtney Trenwith asks, ‘where’s the footpaths?’
By Courtney Trenwith
Wed 18 Jun 2014 08:58 AM

I know it’s too hot to walk outside for a good two to three months of the year in Dubai, but for the rest of the time, it’s perfect walking weather. So why are there so few footpaths?

And why, as is the present situation in areas where the tram line is being constructed, are existing paths ripped up without any temporary solution, literally leading pedestrians into abyss or sudden dead-ends?

I live in Dubai Marina and I like to walk wherever I can. But I can’t walk to key locations such as Marina Mall, JBR or my work in Dubai Media City without traipsing through dirt, balancing on a two-inch wide “path” or watching to make sure I don’t trip on uneven surfaces.

For a bit of exercise, I walk from my office in Dubai Media City to my home in Dubai Marina most evenings. I put up with the lack of actual footpaths because at least I can make it all the way without walking on the road, other than to cross it.

Even when the tram works started, temporary pedestrian bridges were erected at numerous points where pedestrian crossings have been removed.

But on Sunday, I was literally stranded.

The reasonable path I had been walking along suddenly came to an end – where the tram line will eventually run. A sign indicated for pedestrians to go right: that appeared to mean cross the road – at a corner! Anyone who was taught by their parents to cross a road safely knows not to do it in a driver’s blind spot, i.e. just past a corner when they will have less than a second to see you.

Anyway, with no other option, I crossed the road, only to became stuck in an island of dirt apparently being used to store construction items and which was blocked off by those big white and red barriers.

So I turned around. The only option was to walk up the road – at a corner, and in my case, as a small bus came by - for at least 10 metres before reaching an opening that would lead to the other side of the road, and a makeshift path.

I wasn’t the only pedestrian in this pickle. And everyone was flabbergasted.

This is not an isolated scenario. Pick any suburb – except perhaps the family-oriented, gated communities – and you’ll struggle to find a non-stop footpath.

Yet, 33.7 percent of people in the UAE have a serious weight problem, according to the United Nations’ State of Food and Agriculture study released in July.

A recent health index launched by Dubai-based NMC Healthcare showed 35 percent of the UAE population exercises less than once per week.

Taking into consideration physical exercise, social and emotional well-being, the UAE scored an average 65 on the index’s scale of 0-100 – quite a poor result. More than half have a BMI (body mass index) score in the overweight or obese range.

Perhaps a lack of footpaths has led these people to become unaccustomed to walking.

The Dubai government is making great inroads in providing public transport, including the tram. But if people can’t walk between the stations and their home, work, shopping centre etcetera they won’t use it.

We have air-conditioned bus shelters, closed-off rooms for smokers indoors, travelators everywhere, why not footpaths?

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Last Updated: Thu 26 Jan 2017 01:27 PM GST

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