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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Access to the Pearl-Qatar to be restricted during cycling event

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UCI World Championships
UCI World Championships

Roads on the Pearl-Qatar will be closed for up to 10 hours a day next month during the world cycling championships, organizers have announced.

The news has incensed and confused many residents on the island, who are struggling to figure out how the closures will affect them during the nine-day event.

More than 1,000 cyclists – including some of the world’s best – will travel to Qatar to compete in the UCI Road World Championship, which runs from Oct. 8-16.

This is the first time in the event’s 95-year history that it will be held in an Arab country.

What’s closed and when

Cyclists will be taking several routes during different races across the country during the event. However, all will finish with at least one – and in many cases, multiple – laps of the man-made island.

This means that roads around the Pearl will be shut to all traffic for hours at a time.

Event organizers started contacting Pearl residents yesterday to advise them of the details of the closures. They are also being posted online.

Road closures
Road closures

While some closures are only for a few hours a day, the schedules vary significantly.

Most notably, much of the Pearl will be inaccessible to vehicles between 7am and 5:30pm on Tuesday, Oct. 11.

Map of road closures
Map of road closures

So far, organizers have not released information about cycling-related closures in other parts of Qatar.

A spokesman told Doha News that those details would be finalized in the coming days, but “would be quite short in duration.”

Getting around

During the closures, shuttle buses, water taxis and golf carts will be used to transport people around and on/off the island, organizers told Doha News.

Residents can park their vehicles at Katara Cultural Village or the adjacent Doha Exhibition Center (DEC) and ride from there.

Shuttle buses will leave every 15 minutes from a covered, seated stop at Medina Centrale to take residents and visitors off the island to the DEC and Katara.

Katara
Katara

Residents living in other areas of the island should take golf carts from their apartments and villas to the bus stop.

Organizers are advising residents to factor in an extra 40 minutes to their commutes: 15 minutes for car rides to the bus stops, then another 20-25 minutes for the bus journey to Katara/DEC.

A fleet of eight, air-conditioned water taxis, each with a capacity for 40 people, will also depart every 20 minutes from stations at Porto Arabia and Viva Bahriya to Katara, in a journey expected to take up to 25 minutes.

The buses will also leave Katara and DEC regularly to take residents back onto the island during the closures.

For illustrative purposes only
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Travelers will be able to take luggage, baby strollers and child car seats on the shuttles, a representative of the organizers told Doha News.

Stores and eateries based on the island have been warned to reschedule their deliveries around the closures.

And ambulances will be stationed around the island to quickly get residents off the Pearl in the event of an emergency.

Food deliveries to residents will be permitted on a case-by-case basis, the organizers state in an online FAQ about the closures. However they warn “delivery times are expected to be lengthy.”

Anyone with questions about the event can call a hotline at 4409-5110 between 8:30am and 6pm from Sundays to Thursdays.

Criticism

A residents-only center at DEC is being set up to provide children’s entertainment and free refreshments. And residents are being given cards to get discounts and venues around the Pearl.

But many people who live on the island are still upset about the closures, calling the cycling event a great inconvenience.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

For example, Viva Bahriya resident Kim Verbraeken said that as a pilot who works shifts, the shuttle arrangements would make it very difficult for him to get to work on time.

“People live here, we’re not here for holiday,” he said. “For more than one week, it is going to be unbearable for people living here.”

Meanwhile, those with young children said the arrangements are simply not practical.

One parent, Reshma Joshi, told Doha News:

“I’m extremely frustrated as I do not know how I will pick up my kids from nursery at 2pm. I have three children under three so keeping two children back at home isn’t an option.

This is planned poorly and does not take into consideration the situation on residents on the Pearl.”

For mother-of-two Emma Spiers, the arrangements appear “very disruptive” for families and a “logistical nightmare” for working parents in particular.

Others spoke of plans for children’s birthday parties that would need to be postponed. And one pregnant resident, who is due to give birth during the event, voiced her concerns about being able to get to the hospital in time.

Responding to some of the complaints, a spokesman for the organizers said in a statement:

“The UCI Road World Championships Organizing Committee has worked very closely with UDC, master developer of The Pearl-Qatar, the Ministry of Interior, and Lekhwiya to ensure that the impact on access and safety is carefully considered and minimized.”

Despite the logistics issues, some residents said they were looking forward to the event.

Event details

The championships are one of the key events in the world cycling calendar and attract some of the best cyclists to compete for the coveted rainbow jersey.

British 2011 world champion Mark Cavendish is expected to take part, however Slovakian Peter Sagan has not confirmed if he will travel to Qatar to ride this year, BBC reported.

Mark Cavendish wins Tour of Qatar 2016
Mark Cavendish wins Tour of Qatar 2016

As overall winner, Cavendish won the golden jersey at the Tour of Qatar race earlier this year.

Over the nine days, there will be a dozen events, including individual time trials, team time trials and road races in junior, under-23 and elite categories for men and women.

One of the highlights of the event will be the elite men’s road race on Oct. 16.

The grueling 257.5km route starts at Khalifa International Stadium in the Aspire Zone and finishes near the Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel on the Pearl.

Details of the races can be found on the event’s website here.

Will you be affected by the closures? Thoughts?

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