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Few motorists join World Car Free Day.

Dubai: The roads and highways across Dubai and Sharjah remained clogged by cars as it seemed there were few takers for the World Car Free Day, which was marked in the UAE on Thursday.

As usual, heavy traffic could be seen on all major arteries including Shaikh Zayed Road, Emirates Road, Al Ittihad Road in Dubai and Al Wahda Street in Sharjah.

Most people were unaware about World Car Free Day, but globally a 24-hour campaign was held on September 22.

This is despite the fact there is a growing focus on promoting public transport modes across the country.

Experts say the traffic situation indicates the need for a better public transport system.

"Without proper provision of inter-city public transportation services, one can hardly see any possibility that people could effectively commute without their private cars," said Dr Arun Bajracharya, an assistant professor at the British University in Dubai's business faculty.

He added that the daily traffic congestion on Dubai-Sharjah routes indicated a good opportunity to attract people to public transportation if it is available.

And he said more expansion of the metro was needed.

"The weather in the UAE is a factor which discourages people from taking public transport. It is difficult for people to walk even a few metres in this kind of heat.

"There needs to be a better intercity transport system and the metro needs better connectivity in general. It should reach out to all areas."

Dr Bajracharya, who has done extensive research on transport systems in the UAE and the behaviour of commuters, said that the use of transport modes differs from person to person based on availability and individual context.

"Choice of modes of transportation for day-to-day use can be taken as a rather very personal choice, and it is affected by different set of contexts in which people live.

"It is again interesting to see that the behaviour of a large mass of people who populate a city shape the contexts and these again affect their choice of behaviour," he explained.

However, he wasn't so sure whether initiatives like World Car Free Day can work in reducing the use of cars, though he added that it may create awareness.

"If we consider the issue of checking excessive private car ridership, plausible and people friendly interventions are needed. Probably marking World Car Free day is one of such friendly interventions that primarily address the issue of personal and social awareness about the downside of excessive private car ridership."

He added that stronger mass campaigns are required to create greater awareness, while also improving the infrastructure.

"People do get caught into their day-to-day behaviour, and unless we reform the very context to let them modify their behaviour, a jolt of once-a-year car free day awareness may not be strong enough.

"The availability and accessibility of public transportation services are very important."

Use of public transport has grown over the years, particularly in Dubai, where the metro has been a great success story.

Since 2009, more than 114 million people have used the metro, which reflects on Dubai's roads where the traffic situation has improved comparatively.

Even the popularity of buses, with more extensive routes and a greater fleet, has increased over the years, with more than 110 million passengers using feeder, urban and intercity buses.

Commuters however claim more improvements in pubic transport are needed before leaving their cars at home becomes a reality.

"The government is promoting public transport but there are fewer options for people to choose from, particularly for inter-city transport. I can't use the intercity buses from Sharjah to Jebel Ali to go for work, it's just not practical," said Biju George, who drives between Sharjah and Jebel Ali every day.

Another commuter, who wished not to be named, added that though the metro has helped a lot of people in their daily trips to and from work, it is not convenient for everyone.

Syed Waiz, a great fan of the metro, agreed: "The metro doesn't reach many areas. For instance if I want to go for work using public transport from Silicon Oasis, where I live, I will have to catch a bus to Rashidiya, then catch a metro from there and then again catch a bus. It will take me around 90 minutes on each direction, so I prefer my car," said Syed Waiz.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Sep 20, 2012
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