“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” Ernest Hemingway
We decided to take advantage of the near perfect weather conditions and try out the ADCB/Cyacle Bikeshare scheme by taking our visitors on a cycle ride to Yas Links Golf Club, for a spot of alfresco lunch on the terrace at Hickory’s restaurant. We got off to a somewhat wobbly start (not a reference to my bike riding ability or my behind I might add) when payment was taken by the machine but bike keys were not issued, resulting in a sense of humour failure by the other half whose credit card was debited immediately. After a delay waiting for the Cyacle men to arrive, who then couldn’t fix the problem at the Al Muneera South station even with a trusty can of WD40 (stressful), we were finally on our way with keys and an additional bike from Muneera’s North Station located at the Beach.
Now call me naive or stupid (or both) but in my head we were off for a little jaunt along the new green cycle paths to Yas Island over the top of the Yas Tunnel (bikes prohibited from inside the tunnel) and round past the Yas Marina Circuit to the golf club, but that’s not possible. Instead it’s more like a leg of the Tour de France (that’s my level of fitness showing through right there) around the outskirts of Yas Island and through the back roads adjacent to the Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway towards Yas Mall and back towards Ferrari World (insert red face and heavy breathing here). Although longer and less direct than I had anticipated, it was still a very enjoyable outing and we successfully deposited the bikes back to the Yas Links Golf Club station in just over an hour, slightly delayed mainly due to route confusion which incurred an extra charge for going over the allotted first hour.
The new bikeshare scheme offers residents/visitors of Raha Beach and Yas Island the opportunity to explore the area on two wheels by hiring bikes from eleven stations starting from Al Bandar and finishing outside Yas Waterworld. The conveniently located stations are situated along the route at Al Muneera (two), Al Zeina, Yas Marina, Yas Plaza, Yas Beach, Yas Viceroy Hotel and Ferrari World (see location map below). The distinctive red and white bikes are in good condition with an area at the front for bags/water etc and have an adjustable seven position seat that’s perfect for the vertically challenged like me.
I have to say that while the idea is marvellous in theory, there are in my opinion a few teething problems with the scheme in practice. We were a party of four riders but you can only hire a maximum of three bikes per credit card, if you incur a problem as we did, the helpline number flashes up on the terminal screen and then disappears and is not visible anywhere else so you have to google the website to find it out which is both annoying and time consuming. Bike helmets are not provided so you either have to bring your own (as advised by the scheme) or take your chances without one. As far as the routes go, more signage is definitely needed as we were confused in parts when the cycle path ran out (an armed security guard had to direct us at one point) and it’s impossible to get to Al Bandar without going on the road as the paths are not finished.
Various hiring options are available which incur different costs plus the additional initial cost of the keys. Hiring is reasonably priced as long as you dock the bikes within the required time limit or further charges are incurred. I was concerned with what happens if you get to a station and it’s full so you can’t dock your bike, but after reading the small print it appears you can tap “No docking space available” on the terminal and this will guide you to the nearest docking space available and also give you additional 15 minutes to get there.We paid AED 15 (about £2.70) each for a day pass which meant the bikes need to be docked once released within an hour, so as we were ten minutes over we were charged an additional AED 10 per bike which was charged to the credit cards the following day. I think you have to be conscious of your timings and docking procedure (make sure green light is on when you re-dock your bike) to ensure you are not overcharged. Our keys, which are ours to keep for future rides were AED 15 each.
The ADCB Bikeshare scheme in association with Cyacle (an initiative co-founded by entrepreneurs Mohammed Bashkeel and Hani Akasha) is the UAE’s first public bicycle sharing system, based on the successful Boris Bike scheme in London and similar enterprises in New York, Paris and other major cities. It’s an inexpensive and healthy way of enjoying the Raha Beach and Yas Island areas in the cooler months and in a city where we spend so much time in cars, it’s a great way of getting outdoors, enjoying some fresh air and taking in the local scenery.
Here’s the Nitty Gritty – The first 60 minutes (changed from 30 minutes when the scheme was first introduced) of using ADCB Bikeshare is always free as long as the initial one-off fee is paid as per the different packages. If the bike is not docked after the first hour then further charges apply (AED 10 for the first half hour, followed by AED 20 for the next half hour and AED 10 every half hour thereafter). This pricing system is in place to encourage riders to dock the bikes when they are not in use to make the bikeshare more accessible for everyone. Riders can either purchase a one-day pass (like we did) for AED 15 or a three-day pass at AED 40 using a credit or debit card (no cash payments). For those who plan to ride more regularly there is a monthly membership option for a one-off fee of AED 99 and an annual membership is also available for AED 499 per year.
All in all, once we had overcome the little hiccups we enjoyed a very pleasant ride and a well deserved lunch and a few relaxing beverages in the sun, we did however get a taxi home! This scheme is a welcome addition to the area and has potential to improve with better signage and more cycle paths, but obviously is limited in usage with regard to the weather in upcoming months, so if you fancy getting out on a bike I suggest you do it sooner rather than later.
For more information visit the Cyacle website www.cyacle.ae. If you need assistance or want to speak to someone in person telephone 800-CYACLE (292253) or click here to download ADCB Bikeshare information and training manual.
Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved. Male cyclist, Ferrari World Station and logo photos used courtesy of www.cyacle.ae.