Greenways of Saudi Arabia: Activating their transportation potential



Publication Date

August 2022


Since the early 1970s, auto-centric planning in Saudi Arabia (SA) has created car-dependent lifestyles, resulting in health and environmental problems. In the past decade, ambitious policies (e.g., The Saudi Vision 2030), regulations, awareness campaigns, city plans, and projects have sought to address this problem by transitioning to sustainable urban mobility. One form of this is active transportation (AT) via networks of greenways, which is currently being promoted in Saudi cities. However, the contemporary use of greenways for AT - for example, commuting by bike or walking - is extremely low in SA. Additionally, there is limited research on greenways in Middle Eastern countries. Thus, this paper aims to examine the factors hindering the use and development of greenways as AT corridors in SA, thereby informing efforts to unlock their AT potential.

After outlining how the forms and functions of greenways in SA evolved compared to their international counterparts, we present Jeddah city as a case study, a city with low rates of AT. Drawing on recent empirical mixed-methods research, an overview and synthesis of factors explaining the low utilisation rate of Jeddah’s greenways as AT corridors is presented. Barriers to AT are categorised as site-specific (e.g., greenway design, safety, maintenance), contextual (e.g., neighbourhood walkability/accessibility, weather), behavioural and perceptual (e.g., conflicts between greenway users and perceptions). In addition to user-based evidence, we identify broader development-related challenges of building a greenway network for AT in Jeddah city, including spatial connectivity, lack of integration with the concerned authorities, limited budgets, and securing and regulating land.

Results show that multidimensional impediments to active commuting via greenways in SA are similar to those globally, for example, greenway’s proximity to home addresses (Krizek and Johnson 2007; Wolch et al. 2010). However, other factors are specific to the Saudi context. These include, but are not limited to, the perception of privacy, unsuitability of formal Saudi attire for riding bicycles, and fear of public judgement. We conclude with a comprehensive model that summarises all the factors influencing greenway use for active transport in SA, which can inform future research and practice in this domain.