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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Opinion: Why Doha needs to learn to walk before it can run a metro

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Shops affected by loss of parking.
For illustrative purposes only.

Qatar resident Amy Bambridge recently returned to work after giving birth to twins, who are now toddlers. She found that the lot where many of her colleagues used to park had been turned into a massive Doha Metro construction site. This means some people are being forced to park further away and walk a short distance – something many commuters are going to be expected to do once the metro starts operating in 2019.

As Bambridge recently wrote on her blog, Escape to Qatar, there are serious obstacles – physical and otherwise – that authorities must address in order to turn Doha into a more walkable city and make public transit a feasible and attractive alternative to driving.

Whether it’s from home to the nearest metro station, or from the station to the office, there will be some walking involved for those who choose to leave their vehicles at home.

The problem is that walking almost anywhere in Qatar can be incredibly difficult – if not impossible at times – and downright dangerous. Frustratingly, there appears to be little to no effort into addressing these challenges, even as construction crews are racing to complete the metro within the next four years.

What’s wrong with walking elsewhere in Qatar? I see the following hazards on my daily walk from wherever I manage to park my car to my office, no matter which route I take:

An SUV parked on the sidewalk, blocking pedestrians.
An SUV parked on the sidewalk, blocking pedestrians.

Cars parked on the pavements

Yes, it’s illegal. And yes, the police do dish out tickets in some parts of Doha. However it’s still pretty ubiquitous. And yes, we’ve probably all done it in desperation at some point. But it’s no fun to have to walk into the road, especially on a bend, as I do when I walk this route.

Bits of rubbish left lying in the middle of the pavement

Just to keep you on your toes. Who is responsible for this stuff? Nobody, it would seem. Imagine trying to push a baby in a stroller along this street.

Construction materials and slippery stones make walking hazardous.
Construction materials and slippery stones make walking hazardous.

You might look at the next photo and wonder why I don’t just walk around these obstacles.

Well, see those slightly darker grey/black tiles among the grey ones on the left of the pavement? They’re marble.

It turns out that if you put just one foot on them, you go flying. I found this out the hard way. Why would one install really, really slippery tiles on a public walkway?

A random sinkhole

A deep dip in the sidewalk.
A deep dip in the sidewalk.

I’m not sure this photo does it justice. This one is so deep that I actually need to walk around it to avoid tripping.

The pavement is sinking!

Problem No. 1 (see above) likely contributes to the unevenness of many sidewalks and walkways. Again, it’s a pretty common sight.

Using the pavement as a construction site

One might think this is a one-off and specific to where I work. It’s not. This is Doha – there are building sites everywhere.

Construction materials left on the sidewalk.
Construction materials left on the sidewalk.

I don’t know who is supposed to regulate this stuff, but contractors seem to get away with spilling supplies and building material all over the surrounding pavements (and often roads too).

And the stuff they leave lying around is dangerous – I’ve ripped a long skirt on some of it, and probably could have ripped my leg open if I wasn’t being careful.

Every morning, I walk past a construction worker using an angle-grinder here, right in the middle of the pavement. He’s not wearing any personal protective equipment, and he has absolutely no regard for anyone walking past.

I am just grateful that I never need to walk anywhere with my kids. Although it would be nice to have the option.

The pavement coming to an abrupt end

This is also very common:

A sidewalk that abruptly comes to an end.
A sidewalk that abruptly comes to an end.

Sometimes, it’s part of the urban design, while other times there are physical barriers in the way. How is this allowed to happen?

Dearest Doha: I love you, but you must address this! How is anyone going to use the metro when even a 100m walk is fraught with such dangers?

There needs to be a massive crackdown on construction contractors who intrude on the ability of pedestrians to use sidewalks.

The sidewalk network needs a complete overhaul almost everywhere in the city. Even when new ones have been built, they quite often end abruptly or don’t link up to anywhere useful. There are very few places to cross the roads safely.

It needs to change. We’ve got four years. Let’s make it happen.

What are your experiences as a pedestrian in Qatar? Thoughts?

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local
local
6 years ago

Qatar needs proper planned towns.

Michael
Michael
6 years ago

The Metro is a GREAT IDEA as I use to live/work in Arlington/Alexandria, Virginia (Metro DC) and it was much quicker to take the METRO then drive a car…there will be a learning curve but maybe the Qatar Government can use some “lessons learned” from Dubai and their Metro system?

Gaga
Gaga
6 years ago

Can they just hire the urban planner of Dubai real quick? I dunno what happening with Ashghal now.

Michael
Michael
6 years ago
Reply to  Gaga

Gaga, great idea!

bleh!!
bleh!!
6 years ago
Reply to  Gaga

Great Idea. they are spending so much money every where else except here! Gaga as you said get the Urban Planner of Dubai. Also try to get all the same people Dubai used to develop their infrastructure. Get them down here real quick

Jim
Jim
6 years ago
Reply to  Gaga

I wouldn’t be so quick to say Ashghal’s making mistakes right now – Doha in its essence was not at all built for this kind of population and business, and what is going on right now is reconstruction of an entire city’s infrastructure – not at all easy to do in only 5 years. Have some patience… This city is headed in a good direction, and has actually already gone through dramatic changes over the past 5 years (yes it used to be WAY worse!)

Misha
Misha
6 years ago
Reply to  Jim

Quite a few mistakes in the the past though.

Bornrich
Bornrich
6 years ago
Reply to  Misha

I’m very impressed with Ashgal as a company. They’ve taken on same massive projects and seem to get things done on very tight schedules. I think the issue in Doha is that the responsibility for footpaths isn’t the municipality’s in a lot of cases and developers don’t bother doing anything beyond the boundary of the site.

Pete
Pete
6 years ago
Reply to  Jim

I walk frequently at The Pearl. Even there, in the completed parts you’ll find sidewalks that come to a sudden end. And this is one of the citiy’s showpieces! I agree Doha is a work in progress but I’m not sure there won’t still be some fundamental mistakes.

Jim
Jim
6 years ago
Reply to  Pete

It’s a very valid point – I don’t think Doha will be able to fix the pedestrian problem completely anytime soon since there is literally no pre-existing pedestrian infrastructure, but it seems like it’s getting better, at least from a safety perspective (especially with new movements like this https://dohanews.co/qatar-plans-boost-pedestrian-safety-new-crossings-program/ )

May Chance
May Chance
6 years ago

Sidewalks are dug up and not repaired, used as parking, blocked by construction, are built on 30 degree angles, are poorly or not lit at all at night or nonexistent along busy streets. And that’s just Al Sadd.
I love walking, but Doha makes it impossible to do so without leaving my neighborhood by car.

It isn’t any wonder that there are high rates obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc. It must cost the country a fortune in health care and loss of productivity. Perhaps if those costs were tabulated it might make building and maintaining proper sidewalks and fining those who use them improperly more attractive financially.

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago

Good article, all the issues listed come down to the same old story – enforcement, not just for it’s own sake, but to change the mentality of road users and the construction industry in Qatar..

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago

It is little wonder that the blind and the disabled are never seen outdoors in Doha – it would be a death trap for them.

Daveb
Daveb
6 years ago

It’s a good article that draws attention to an issue that impacts upon everyone – as someone who works in the field of disability I have highlighted this issue often along with the lack of curb cuts and crossing points – but it is a wider issue, the lack of safe and easy routes encourages drivers onto the road, that will impact upon the success of the metro, moreover the issues around parking cause people to do crazy things – ignoring one way routes, parking on pavements and just driving without due care. It is a regulation and enforcement issue, but we as residents and citizens also contribute to the problem. What can we do ? Is there a route of redress to notify an authority ? I remember walking on a poorly lit sidewalk in west bay and tripping over a concrete block left in the middle of the pavement – in the shadows I couldn’t see it, what did I do about it ? Nothing – I really had no idea what to do. If we were to try to do anything it might be via social media, just showing locations and danger spots under a hashtag that authorities could monitor and respond to – teams to clear danger spots would be easy to arrange (and fairly cheap) but such a campaign should be sanctioned and welcomed by the authority for it to be effective

bleh!!
bleh!!
6 years ago

maybe its not part of this but i want to highlight this. i believe everybody has visited Hamad Emergency at least once. when i went there the first time with my son i didn’t know in which direction to go. there are no directions no boards or anything which directs one to the hospital. has anyone noticed this? maybe i missed it but after checking quite a bit i’m sure there is nothing which directs one to the emergency section or even the hospital.
if i’m wrong please feel free to correct me.

Misty Blue
Misty Blue
6 years ago
Reply to  bleh!!

Haven’t been. Touch wood.

dubious
dubious
6 years ago
Reply to  bleh!!

It’s not just you, the signage throughout the hospital needs work. They could also do with moving the metal parking structure from the old airport to the hospital car park.

Joe
Joe
6 years ago

Amy should be in charge of Qatar’s Urban Planning Dept. she definitely deserves my vote!
She cares more than the locals who are In charge of monitoring those sites but instead sitting in their air-conditioned offices sipping Karak!

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Joe

flagging this for shabina to take note as it is both presenting false information and stereotyping against Qataris as sitting in A/C offices drinking karak… let see the sort of action you’ll take..

there are not many locals in charge in ashgal, and all those in charge, including locals, are as a matter of fact on the ground monitoring the work.. but there is so much to be done that it’ll take time…

Diego
Diego
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

I agree with your point.However there are people in charge of overseeing these things and I am not sure if they are inept or just do not care/think about safety and making things people friendly. One assumption I have been thinking about is that the majority of those in management roles come from places that don’t have good systems in place and just don’t get it. However there have to be supervisors with proper training that should be able to steer things. Perhaps a ship with thousands of poorly trained workers is hard to steer.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago
Reply to  Diego

How can you be so sure that there are people actually responsible for pavements? I had always figured that their woeful state was because no one is in charge, rather than no one bothering to care.

Diego
Diego
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

First clue is they build them,second is they have a position listed as Infrastrucre Affairs Director. Do a search under Zaywa.com. Unless of course people would be allowed to build random bits of pavement and sidewalks for practice and fun.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago
Reply to  Diego

That’s a fair point I guess I was getting at is that building them is one thing but sooner or later, and for whatever reason, many get dug up or destroyed. It’s rare to see them returned to their former condition so I had always just figured restitution isn’t really anyone’s concern.

Diego
Diego
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

Yes,but it does seem like there are gaps in coordinating elements of the projects together in a cohesive whole. They want the whole,but the end result might need some fine turnings.

dubious
dubious
6 years ago
Reply to  Diego

The area around Ashghal’s towers are terrible so whoever is in charge only has to walk around the block to see some great examples of how to get pavements wrong.

Crazy sloped pavement, broken and unstable surfaces, subsiding surfaces, stretches walled off by construction hording, strange bits of pipe poking up, street signs in the middle of the pavement (one is even a disability one…), street signs with sharp corners at head level, and, my favourite, Kahramaa has installed (two sets of) steps with nice shiny railings right across the pavement that completely blocks the pavement.

Blue
Blue
6 years ago
Reply to  Diego

Isn’t that obvious under their motto – need to hire the best in order to deliver the best.

On a serious note I just hope Qrail coordinate with Asghal for park and ride places – else one would see vehicles on the pavement in the stations!!!

Asghal have such varied projects from Zoos, Schools to Infrastructure works – hope they have a good project manager.

Diego
Diego
6 years ago
Reply to  Blue

If you search under public works Qatar,you will find the page with all the projects listed,on the right side of page. Plus you see all the positions of responsibility. I bet if people started sending pictures in of the health and safety concerns,it may help to illustrate the issues.

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Are you arguing that Qataris do not sit in A/C offices? Or that they do not drink karak?

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

I actually sit in an a/c office and drink Karak each morning in the office.. Clearly your can’t process the concept of context

Tu
Tu
6 years ago
Reply to  Joe

#CommentLikeAnExpatInQatar

PS- we hate you too!

Waveydavey
Waveydavey
6 years ago
Reply to  Tu

How childish…

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  Waveydavey

A dumb comment doesn’t deserve a mature response.

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
6 years ago
Reply to  Joe

Deleting for stereotyping.

DonTom
DonTom
6 years ago

And this is how Villagio has decided to treat their pedestrians…this is right next to the fenced off Metro site.

Whatever
Whatever
6 years ago
Reply to  DonTom

There are signs like this all around Villagio. An especially bad one is along the ‘footpath?’ to the main entrance.

Romulus
Romulus
6 years ago
Reply to  DonTom

SUV rules OK

Doodzz
Doodzz
6 years ago

Do it well as well as your drainage!!!

Daniel Schriefer
Daniel Schriefer
6 years ago

You are not supposed to walk, and you’re not supposed to use the metro. Doha is a motor city.

Romulus
Romulus
6 years ago

absolutely – the car is king, in the 1980’s i could drive right through Doha city centre from Airport to west Bay without stopping…
My one experience of walking in Doha was late one night – i was being picked up by the police an taken home, as they were concerned about me….

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago

Even with properly built pavements I wouldn’t be tempted to walk in Qatar simply because of the heat. What Qatar needs is a more creative idea than just copying what the West does. As for cars parking on pavements, the solution is easy: build a barrier between the pavement and the road.

Nise
Nise
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Is not always hot… Don’t be lazy…

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Nise

Yeah when it is not too hot it is moderately hot, or may be slightly hot. Still, not very suitable for long walks (10 minutes+)

Andrew
Andrew
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

It’s not always too hit to walk in Doha. Even walking from the towers in West Bay to try to get into City Center is made unpleasant and unsafe by the poor state of the footpaths.

Other countries, including non western (and hot) parts of the world have managed to make pedestrians safe as part of an integrated public transport model. Look at Singapore and Hong Kong as examples. Even on a hot and rainy day in Singapore it’s still possible to navigate up Orchard Road without worrying about being hit by a car, tripping on poorly maintained pavements or getting sunstroke.

It’s not a “western” thing it’s a commonsense thing.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Qatar usually looks for the West for inspiration (mostly the U.S. And the UK). My point is to say, since the weather and other conditions in this place have no parallel anywhere else (apart obviously from other GCC countries), it might be good to think of something that hasn’t been necessarily implemented before. Suspended pathways, air conditioned pavements, or other creative options might be technically doable and more practical for Qatar (I am giving here examples I am not saying I am an expert in pavements)

Moe
Moe
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

You mean like Msheireb but all around Qatar, that would be great :). I don’t mind lowering the standards if it will cost a lot.

Whatever
Whatever
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

It is coming little by little but like a child learning to walk it is painful for us to watch how slow the progress is. This is a link to a vision of a project under construction at the moment. If even a small part of this becomes a reality it is another step in the right direction.http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=13&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CFoQtwIwDA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DCw9yxqZmBeM&ei=HEqGVfGsEMSnU7_ngcgF&usg=AFQjCNHTr_GftZHUybhvqtlVJFjVsrQPug

Turkish
Turkish
6 years ago
Reply to  Whatever

i like it why not…

May Chance
May Chance
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

And yet it is usually possible to walk safely in those parts of the US & UK even during the winter months when walkways have to be cleared of ice and snow for 3 or 4 months of the year.

Joanne
Joanne
6 years ago

I live near the duhail roundabout and have to cross the road to get to Lulu. There are no crosswalks or walking signs on or near the roundabout. It is just a dreadful experience, you talk your life in your hands just to get across the street

Blue
Blue
6 years ago
Reply to  Joanne

……Now it makes sense – instead of walkway, pedestrian crossing let’s build malls on either side of the road with the same shops so that one does not need to cross.

Have to dodge people on corniche parking their cars on the waterfront to get to work!!!!

Osama Alassiry AlMaadeed

I wrote “on walking” on my blog about the time I tried walking in Doha In late 2010, with the much better weather, and how it was a disaster…

Simon
Simon
6 years ago

Good blog, Osama, and things have surely only got worse.

We used to enjoy walking round Al Rayyan ‘park’, but when the travel time became longer than the walking, we gave up. Same same these days if trying to get to Aspire.

The purpose is relaxation, but you have all that stress and danger just to get to somewhere that is halfway safe to walk!

The Doha 20? More like The Doha 40 in my case!! [If you’re not aware, those are the pounds that many people put on in their first few months in Doha, due to difficulties of exercising!]

Rane de Beer
Rane de Beer
6 years ago

I walk whenever i can, but it is the most pedestrian unfriendly city after LA. Wouldn’t it look beautiful if all the buildings where connected by walkways covered with pergolas on which a variety of plants like beaugainvillea grow? Add a few million trees and the cityscape could become a tourist destination

fullmoon07
fullmoon07
6 years ago
Reply to  Rane de Beer

this would imply an urban plan, which I don’t really see in this city, I see random stuff

Khaled Saleh
Khaled Saleh
6 years ago

Our problems are simply Parkings & Roads
because if your company and residence has enough parkings you won’t need to walk around that much.

we have serious problems more than the sidewalk ,for example :

– 22-February project which was supposed to end our traffic crises(A complete disappointment)

– continuous roads diversions for maintenances and constructions

– most of services are located inside the city

– only two highways 22-Feb and corniche road

– most of the biggest companies and movements located in one area “Dafnah”

we need to have alternative ways and the Metro is clearly is the best way. i would prefer to use the metro reading a book or my newspaper on my way to work than driving for 30 mins in traffic.

there are lots of problems and issues that are getting solved day by day her in Qatar. It will take time and Its not easy, but yet not impossible.

as visitors we only think about the current image but for Qatari’s they are more concerned about the bigger picture.

Skippy1111
Skippy1111
6 years ago

Good pictures and good thoughts in this piece. The kind of pictures that i would take to try to explain to people what it’s like but it’s just so common here.
I can’t single Qatar out as i’m sure footpaths are like this in many parts of the world but i will say that in my home country this kind of stuff is unacceptable; any municipality that allowed such obvious dangers would be responsible and liable for any injury and damages that occurred to a person who was injured while walking along a footpath because of the negligence of the municipality in failing to maintain the walk ways.
That may seem a bit over the top however, someone is or was paid to build a footpath or walkway, in regards to sinkholes, they failed, or missing tiles or raised levels that create tripping hazards and, as near me, footpaths that for some strange reason have a foot long clearance above the road.
The main issue is the mentality of people in this country- I’ve seen locals spend half an hour driving around a car park trying to squeeze into tiny spaces or waiting for a car park to avail itself because it is close to the entrance, instead of taking available spaces that are 100 ft away.
That mentality was clearly made obvious when the new signal systems were put in place along the corniche, many months spent, millions spent redeveloping and building the roads..and not one overpass put in place – the idea of walking just does not occur to those in charge, the very concept that there might be pedestrians who might want to cross the road via walking just never occurs to anyone, try using a pedestrian crossing in Doha, car’s have no idea what they are for and that pedestrians have the right away, not to speed through them.
Quite often around Al Saad many cars park on the footpaths, not because there are no other car spaces available but because it is close to the place the drivers want to go and they are too important to park properly.
The way we would deal with this at home, if anyone was stupid enough to do it is by keying the offending vehicle – a nice long scratch usually works a treat.

Simon
Simon
6 years ago
Reply to  Skippy1111

Agreed until the scratching comment at the end.

Akmal farah
Akmal farah
6 years ago
Reply to  Skippy1111

Keying works great for those who work hard for their money or have to take their own car to fix the scratch. It does not work when you have no sense of spending and when your drewar can take the car to fix it and get reimbursed by your insurance company. Though, It could be effective when authorities are not on their top game to penalize offenders. However, I am not encouraging that because people should not endorse the law of the jungle anywhere, even in the jungle itself 🙂

Elizabeth Wardle Walker
Elizabeth Wardle Walker
6 years ago

I hear ya! A few weeks ago I tried to walk from The Pearl to the Grand Hyatt….a silly idea, I know, but I was in the mood for a bit of exercise. There is a path as you walk down to the roundabout just by Tower 6 or 7, then it disappears and you you have to walk over the grass to join another path on the entryway to The Pearl….this path goes on for a while and again suddenly ends. One has to then walk in the road, jump over the barrier at the side of the road and walk across the building site that is just by the Grand Hyatt Residences, filling your shoes with sand. Never again! I have tried riding my bike, but you put your life into the hands of some crazy drivers, as no-one gives way to you, esp. on roundabouts. Again, never again! Would love to be able to walk and cycle here, but there are very few places where you can do this in safety!

Simon
Simon
6 years ago

And the stress and time taken to get to those safe places mean that, in the end, you just give up and get fat(ter).

Gareth Walters
Gareth Walters
6 years ago

it would be nice if they did build a proper pedestrian system in Doha, during the cooler months it would be nice to be able to walk to the shop without climbing over barriers or walking over desert. However you can almost guarantee that there will be a certain group within the population that will insist on walking 2 or 3 abreast at night in dark clothes in the middle of the road!

Simon
Simon
6 years ago
Reply to  Gareth Walters

Or right up your backside, flashing their torches!

greylag
greylag
6 years ago

Progress is being made, but sometimes its two steps forward, one back.
In our area the schools have recently had decent parking, drop off, and pavement areas installed. Then in one area the new pavement was ripped up to install drainage pipe- still not properly reinstated.
In another area, a newly paved roundabout was immediately used for parking, so the contractor had to install bollards to make it impossible to park there. Bollards also had to be placed to prevent cars using the pavement walking areas as turnabouts. Old habits die hard!

RR
RR
6 years ago

pedestrian sidewalks? they practically dont exist in the old part of doha.. i have to say a prayer each time i go out of the house and cross the street..

Akmal farah
Akmal farah
6 years ago

The problem here is the fact that all what is being built has been already thought of and the locals probably know that these services will mostly be for non-locals. I have a strong feeling that even if buses get equipped with ACs, still no locals would use that service, just like no locals ever work regular jobs, like in a grocery store or a restaurant or construction etc.

Qatar is a state that will keep on having this huge barrier between locals and non-locals. Until the mentality and the culture changes, which is impossible from what we see, then these services will always be perceived to be only an extra for the middle and low class or just the non-locals. Once the laws, regulations and services start serving the whole population, including Qataris themselves, then things can take different planning routes.

If you think that the locals will take the Metro to their work instead of their luxury cars, then you need to think more.

fullmoon07
fullmoon07
6 years ago

she is so right! In order to know what it is to walk you need to try it! Did any of those on the project ever walked in Doha? Urban planning that strange thing

Romulus
Romulus
6 years ago
Reply to  fullmoon07

dont be silly – to do urban planning for the metro we dont waste time walking around the city… 🙂

fullmoon07
fullmoon07
6 years ago
Reply to  Romulus

exactly, you live normally like other people! If you live in a golden cage how can you even realize what it is needed or not? Anyway, urban planning in Doha is a unknown concept!

Romulus
Romulus
6 years ago

Stereotyping is when you judge a group of people who are different from you based on your own and/or others opinions –
dont do that.

🙂

Romulus
Romulus
6 years ago

The Metro Stations will all have passenger access ways under the main highways – no need to cross the road
there just needs to be pavements to walk on

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