Dubai // It was created to bring Dubai's road maps into the modern age, but the first phase of implementing the new system of street names has confused motorists and even caused a few road accidents. Signs along Sheikh Zayed Road, the city's main thoroughfare, which previously displayed the names of well-known areas such as Umm Suqeim, Al Safa and Jumeirah, have been replaced by boards directing traffic to the areas' main arterial roads, some of which have been given new names.
The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) recently started altering road signs in line with the new system that will eventually allocate every street a unique name instead of a number. Many motorists on Sheikh Zayed Road have been baffled by the new signs. Their confusion has been compounded by the fact that several of the road names on them have only just been created under the new addressing regime.
The RTA says the changes are in line with global standards and should not cause confusion for long, as motorists will soon get used to them. The signs at exit 43, which indicated Umm Suqeim, now direct drivers to Al Manara Road, and exit 47, which leads to the Al Safa and Al Wasl districts, is now signposted Meydan Road and Al Hadiqa Road. "The problem is nobody has heard of these roads unless they live there, so the signs are completely meaningless," said James Stewart, 31, a recruitment consultant.
"I nearly collided with another car the other day when I was trying to decipher these signs to find my exit. I was trying to get to my friend's house in Jumeirah 3 and I'd been told to follow signs from Sheikh Zayed Road to Safa Park, but instead I just saw signs to these places I'd never come across before. I was so busy studying the signs I nearly crashed into a car in front of me, which looked like it was having the same problem. I ended up missing my turning and had to pull in and phone my friend for directions - it was very inconvenient but I guess it will be OK once people are used to it."
Steven Khan, 45, who runs an irrigation business, said he suffered a minor whiplash injury when he hit another vehicle as he craned his neck to read the new sign to Al Hajar Road at exit 46. "It was terrible," Mr Khan said. "I was heading to a dental appointment on Jumeirah Beach Road and looking for my exit. When I saw this sign to Al Hajar Road I was convinced I'd missed my turning or something, so I slowed a bit and was looking around and before I knew it 'bang' I crashed into the car in front of me.
"Luckily it wasn't very serious, but I got a bit of a whiplash in my neck from the impact." Jane Sankar, 44, a resident of Al Safa, said she had noticed traffic slowing down on the approach to the new signs on several occasions. "More than before I see cars slowing down on Sheikh Zayed Road in those areas, I think because they're probably confused by the signs," she said. "I think it's great what the RTA is doing though - the new address system is definitely necessary, and if that means changing some road signs, then so be it."
The RTA believes the new road signs format and addressing system - which are to be extended to the rest of the emirate over the next year - will make life a lot easier for residents and motorists. The authority says the changes are to bring Dubai's roads in line with global standards Peyman Younes Parham, the RTA's director of communications, said: "The signs from main roads like Sheikh Zayed Road are being changed so that they point to the main arterial road in an area rather than the area itself. So for example there are now exit signs pointing to streets like Meydan Road and Al Hajar Road. It's a test phase being carried out between interchanges two and four and it's a very large operation to get all the different sign boards changed - production of the boards takes quite a long time.
"Whenever you introduce a new scheme like this in a test phase, there's always going to be some confusion because people are seeing it for the first time. I think drivers will get used to the changes pretty quickly." Dubai's new addressing system - which is undergoing a pilot testing in Jumeirah 3 - will replace the system of numbers for minor roads with unique street names. Dubai will also be divided into new zones, each including several districts. Details of the zones have not been released.
Signs with traditional street numbers in the test zone were replaced by road names at the beginning of last month, and literature explaining the changes was distributed to residents. The three-month pilot phase is designed to iron out any problems in the system before implementing it in the rest of the city. firstname.lastname@example.org