x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Let's clear the air on the law

Finally, common sense prevailed. And then, it hit a speed bump.

Finally, common sense prevailed. And then, it hit a speed bump. Thanks to Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, the old-car ban has been dismissed - at least, temporarily. The rule, which would have prohibited vehicles older than 20 years from the roads, was delayed indefinitely to allow owners of these cars - mainly low- to middle-income earners, but not exclusively - a chance to find alternative transportation solutions. Letters to this newspaper reflect the relief and gratitude of readers for this decision.

But not a day after Sheikh Khalifa laid down his decree, another absurd piece of road legislation has appeared, and this time it was from Sharjah. Its government has decided there are too many cars on its roads, so a good way to limit the number would be to refuse people the privilege of driving. And the way they will decide who gets to drive and who doesn't depends on the person's occupation - people such as carpenters, cooks and even some nurses who are on the lower end of the pay scale will not be allowed to sit for their driving test. This is not a new idea - the actual law has been on the UAE's books for about 10 years, but Sharjah alone has decided to enforce it.

There are many reasons why both of these laws don't work; too many to go into here. (Personally, I lament not being able to buy a cool, old clunker.) But one of the biggest is the fact that there are few alternatives for people who can't afford a newer vehicle or can't drive at all - public transportation is sparse and there are not enough taxis on the road, a problem that would be magnified with a higher demand. Until we have a decent transit system, we need cars to get around.

But with both laws, government officials state environmental concerns as being their guiding force. This will help clean up our air, they say. But these laws say so much more than that. Both directives, whether intentional or not, mainly affect people with smaller pay packets. These laws put greater pressure on them to go about their daily lives. Meanwhile, those who earn more have nothing to worry about - they can still buy their new SUVs and drive when they please and not worry about waiting for cabs in the heat.

So what these laws are saying is that the responsibility of cleaning up the air we breathe in the UAE rests on the shoulders of those who would be burdened the most by it. If you happen to make a decent wage, you get a free pass to do what you want. Is that fair? Instead of these narrow-minded laws, The Traffic Warden throws out some alternative ideas on mo12 to consider. While these ideas may or may not be accepted here - and you may not like them - they are meant to stir some conversation about real solutions to our environmental and traffic congestion problems; solutions that involve everyone, not just one segment of the population.

With Masdar City and other initiatives, the UAE is becoming known as a world leader in environmental issues. Let's not spoil our image like this. motoring@thenational.ae