Cycle share scheme proving surprise hit in Qatar

You could be forgiven for thinking that cycle-sharing schemes may not be as popular in the hot, dusty Middle East as they have been in Europe's temperate capitals, but a new program launched this month seems set to prove the opposite.

Q Bike launched earlier this month in Doha as the first bike-sharing scheme in the Middle East, allowing users to borrow bikes to get around the Qatar capital.

The scheme, which is modelled on the Parisian Velib system, will be free for residents and tourists until April 5 as part of a trial program in which only a single station will operate from outside the Sheraton Hotel on the Corniche, where a dedicated cycle track has been set up.

Doha authorities and Decaux, the company behind the scheme, intend to use the test to allow them to assess the potential for a city-wide development.

A spokesperson told Relaxnews that at the moment, the service is proving very successful, saying that the first "results are very positive and encouraging," although full results will be announced after the test period.

Q Bike is the latest attempt from Qatar to brand itself as a sports-friendly nation, a mission which has become all the more pressing since the country was named the host of the 2022 World Cup.

It is set to boast the first dedicated cycling routes on major roads in the Middle East, according to the Qatar Cycling Federation, with 15 kilometers of cycle routes planned for the new Dukhan Highway, a major route into Doha.

The country even hosts its own cycling competition, the Tour of Qatar, which finished its tenth year earlier in February having attracted competitors from all over the world.