Like a sci-fi structure on the surface of an alien planet, our 35-km bike path in Doha, Qatar, aims to make cycling visible, as well as viable, in a harsh desert environment where temperatures can reach a fiery 50C and car culture is firmly entrenched. Signalling cycling as an attractive, futuristic and even glamorous alternative, our shiny covered and cooled path is an immediately recognisable landmark snaking its way along the seafront.
Our design for a comfortable, cooled bike highway between the old and new centres of Doha, the capital of the Gulf state of Qatar, was developed together with Rand, Goudappel Coffeng and other consultants. It ranks as one of our most unusual projects. While bike are ubiquitous in our home base here in the Netherlands, in Qatar cycling is virtually unknown. The heat makes outdoor exercise impossible, so obesity and diabetes rates are rising â€“ hence this project to increase the possibilities for a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.
The route of the cycle path follows the Corniche, a waterfront promenade running for several kilometres along Doha Bay. It was formed following extensive dredging work to reshape Doha’s coastline, carried out during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Corniche links the old town of Doha with its newer neighbourhoods, and with a number of sights and attractions that are clustered around the bay. The sea views add to its appeal. For safety, the bike path separates cyclists from other road users.
Shiny and sleek, our covered and cooled bike route snakes its way along the seafront
In Qatar, cycling requires protection from the sun and a cooling of the temperature to 32Â°C or below. The canopy of our path design uses a special reflective coating to reduce solar heat. Within the canopy, a radiative cooling system uses water from underground aquifers which is sprayed into the air, reducing the temperature. Our cycle path can be completely or partially closed, thanks to transparent panels that can be lowered or raised. Lights at ground and roof level make night cycling safe and easy.
While the desert may yet be a bike journey too far, our solution could help to alleviate congestion in cities. While the heat is seldom a problem in the Netherlands, for example, a covered pathway could encourage more commuters to cycle, by offering them protection from the cold and rain.