Born to a French mum and an Aussie dad, Timothy (9) and seven-year-old Christopher Lewis are no strangers to the great outdoors. In fact these lucky ‘Frogeroos’ (their dad’s term) spend most of their summer holidays pedalling through the French countryside.
‘It’s great to ride your bike in France because there are not too many cars, there are lots of trees and if you fall off it’s usually into grass or bushes so you don’t hurt yourself,’ says Timothy. ‘We can go as far as we like and we don’t need to have our parents around.’
Hmm, France sounds like a tough act to follow. Hard-pushed to compete with sunflower-packed meadows and meandering country lanes, mum Laure has some creative ideas up her sleeve.
‘We live in Umm Sequim so we often cycle to the beach. We take a snack and watch the sunset. Or we cycle to Umm Sequim park or Safa park, leave the bikes, have a run around and then cycle home again.’
But are you not taking your life into your hands venturing out onto Dubai’s streets? ‘You have to have your wits about you, even if you only go on the footpath,’ admits Laure. Crossing the road, avoiding cars parked on the pavement and keeping a beady eye out for mad driving all make Dubai cycling that little bit more tricky. ‘Fortunately the pavements are quite wide, so we’ve found routes where we can be comfortable, where we’re not getting on and off our bikes and we’re relatively free to ride.’
Laure cycles with a maximum of two children – usually Timothy and Christopher, and so the boys realise they have to share their mum if they want to bring along a friend. ‘Cycling in Dubai is a big responsibility as a parent. It’s a challenge – which is why I will only ride with two kids. I have to lay down the rules before we go anywhere: where we are going, which route we’re taking, the fact that mum is in charge etc.’
Laure would hesitate about taking a child younger than seven out on the sleepiest of Dubai’s streets (if such a thing exists), but the boys have learnt a lot about road safety from their city cycling trips.
‘I know that when we have to cross three roads at a junction you have to wait for three green men, not just one,’ says Christopher. ‘And I know I have to check the tyres before leaving. I check the brakes are working and I always wear a helmet because if you fall on your head you don’t want it to break open.’ Wise words. But is there anywhere these speed demons can really let rip? ‘My favourite place to cycle is the compound where we live because I can go fast – not as fast as I would like to, but faster than I can on the road, but you still have to watch out for cars,’ says Christopher.
Timothy’s preferred spot is a cycle track near Al Mamzar park, north of Dubai. About one km long, it runs between an inlet and vacant land near the city, and Tim says he loves it because ‘I get to go into top gear’. The narrow, paved lane bordering a running track that stretches for four km along the Mamzar beach inlet is also good for family riding.
‘Of course it isn’t through the forest or even next to the beach,’ says dad Phil. ‘But you can see the backdrop of the city, and, for me, it’s great to watch Indian families playing cricket. The kids don’t care about the view, as long as they get to ride their bikes.’
Other options include Safa park, mainly for younger kids as bikes are not permitted when the park is busy (weekends and public holidays), the track down at Jumeirah open beach, as well as the cycle lane down Jumeirah Beach Road. However, the Lewis crew have tried the latter and say with the busy road on one side and houses on the other, it’s just not that interesting. ‘Crossing the roads is difficult because there are no lights, no pedestrian crossings, so it’s not an easy, comfortable ride,’ says Laure. ‘We would rather go through the houses on the quiet roads closer to the beach.’
Looking ahead, the Lewis boys are eager to branch out and take their mountain bikes off-road, but in the meantime, they’re happy cycling with caution around their home city.
‘Dubai’s not like France, but you can still ride your bike a lot,’ says Timothy. ‘And the traffic isn’t that scary. If you watch carefully and don’t do anything silly you won’t get hurt.’
Where does your family go cycling? If you have any secret spots you’re willing to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org