DUBAI // First it was roadworks: customer numbers fell. Then it was paid parking: more customers departed. Now cafe owners and other businesses in Al Nahda fear new Salik toll gates could be the final straw for trade.
"This place used to be the perfect rest stop for people returning home to Sharjah after a long day at work," said Abdulla Ali, manager of Captain Cafe on Ittihad Road, which has a perfect view of the new toll gates on Al Mamzar flyover. "People used to stop here for some tea, coffee or a snack.
"Last year they closed off access from Al Ittihad Road and made all the parking paid. We're locked in. You have to take the exit at Al Mamzar Bridge and drive around Al Nahda to get to us. We've gone from being the most convenient to the most inconvenient.
"If that wasn't bad enough, they put the Salik gates in front of our cafe. I wonder what they will do next year, if we are even still around."
Businesses along the strip sent a joint letter of complaint to the RTA, the Roads and Transport Authority, about the parking issue and being blocked in. "And their response is to put a Salik gate here?" said Bahos Ibrahim, the manager of Sevan Bakery.
He will propose to the other businesses that they send another letter, but doubts it will do any good.
Plans to erect two new toll gates - one at the Airport Tunnel and the other on either side of Al Mamzar flyover on Ittihad Road - were announced last week. They are scheduled to become operational on April 15.
Residents will be affected too. Nirav Bhagat, 40, an accounts manager with a jewellery company, has avoided the Dh4 Salik fee by using Al Khail Road to drive from his home in Al Nahda to his office in Jumeirah Lakes Towers. He takes Ittihad Road to Al Tawar and then drives through the Airport Tunnel to Business Bay Crossing.
"It's like the RTA had me in mind when they decided where to put the gates," he said.
The two new gates join four existing Salik gates on Sheikh Zayed Road in Al Barsha and Al Safa, on Al Maktoum Bridge and on Garhoud Bridge.
"I've never had to use Salik before, now I don't know how to avoid it," said Mr Bhagat, who lives in Al Nahda, near Al Mamzar flyover. "This is going to be a big headache for me."
He is most unhappy that even a short drive in Al Nahda may cost him Dh8. "I live just on the other side of the gate. If I drive just 250 metres I'll be paying a toll. This is a very bad decision by RTA. Just dropping my son off at school every morning will be a cost of Dh8."
Nimr Noor, 32, a banker who lives in the Burj Al Nahda apartment complex overlooking the flyover, feels stuck.
"I go to the office sometimes several times a day, or go to meet a client. My wife also drives: she takes the children to school sometimes. This is going to cost me very badly."
Mr Noor will have to spend at least Dh16 a day on Al Nahda Salik gates, which charge Dh4 each time they are passed.
"I'm going to have to plan ahead, I guess. I might look at driving to the closest Metro station and taking the train from there. This is really going to affect my daily routine."
Mr Noor may move, but he will test the waters for the first few months and then decide. "We live out here because we want to save money. If this is going to cost us, then we might as well move closer to the city.
"I understand that this is about traffic control, but it shouldn't affect residents."