Muscat: Oman needs to do more to make cycling safer, says a fitness fanatic who narrowly avoided death on the roads.
After being knocked of his bike, Geoff Wilson, who has been a cyclist for the last 20 years, told the Times of Oman that only a change in attitude among drivers can bring about safer conditions.
"Vehicle drivers should follow safe driving norms. They should not be glued to the cellphone screens and should be cautious while on the road. They should allow space for cyclists and motorbike riders on the road," he said.
Wilson is a Race Director at the Muscat Triathlon Club, which promotes swimming, running and cycling activities in Oman. As a Race Director, he trains cycle enthusiasts about safe driving and safety on roads.
He was hit by a car on the Muscat Express Highway, about eight kilometres from his residence.
"I have a doubt that the driver was possibly texting while driving. Moreover, he was above the speed limit. When I was hit, the driver was reportedly at a speed of 66kph. My GPS equipment data on the cycle can prove it. When I was hit, I was thrown off the road. My cycle, worth thousands of rials, was crushed underneath his car's wheels. It was sheer luck that I didn't fall under his car," Wilson, an expatriate from the UK, who is working in the oil and gas sector in Oman, said.
"There are special lanes for cyclists in most countries. But here in Oman, cyclists are shooed away by the 'biggies' on the road. Even though, there is much space for the vehicle drivers, they create a panic situation for cyclists while they are on the road," Wilson said, while adding that careless and reckless drivers should be penalised severely.
In most of the countries, insurance companies deny accident claims if the driver was texting or intoxicated while driving. Wilson said that insurance companies should implement the same rule strictly here in Oman, also.
According to Wilson, most of the developed countries promote cycling both as a sport and as a means for commuting, which is good for health and for environment.
"Many countries give importance to cycling. Barcelona's 'Bicing' is a bike share system, Berlin respects cyclists. Paris, one of the original bike share cities has one 'Velib' bike available per 97 inhabitants. Stockholm promotes 'City Bikes' share system, and Amsterdam is the best place to ride a bike, with its extensive network of bike lanes along the quaint cobbled streets and under arched bridges over canal after canal after canal," informed Wilson.
Even though there are around 100 serious cyclists in Oman, both nationals and expatriates, cycling as a sport or as a mean for commuting is not catching up among the masses, said Wilson.
"During the Tour Oman, the much celebrated cycling event in the Sultanate, more than 20 international cyclists come here, which is something we do not see in the UK. They come here and do cycling here. Residents and citizens watch them on the road. But somehow they are never inspired and do not take cycling seriously," Wilson added.
Wilson said that authorities should do more to promote cycling in Oman where the rate of diabetics and obesity is going up.
"Climate may be an obstacle for cycling in Oman. But at least for six months, it is okay here. It will help people to stay healthy and, moreover, it is the greenest means of transport," Wilson added.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Ubaidani, director at Muscat Triathlon Club said that drivers of four wheel vehicles should look after poor cyclists and drive safely.
"From my point of view, it is not even 10 per cent safe. We at the Muscat Triathlon Club are trying hard to send this message to everyone in Oman to understand how important it is to our lives and those of others. Moreover, we are trying to educate people all across Oman about road safety and a special focus on the safety of cyclists. If they don't drive safely, we cyclists will be in danger. A lot of awareness programmes have to be carried out to educate the drivers about safe driving. They should be caring for other road users also. If they are into safe driving, then we are also safe, otherwise we will be unsafe," Ubaidani added.
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