x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

7,000 cars left at home for fifth Car Free Day in Dubai

Taking the vehicles off the road reduced carbon emissions by 20 tonnes and the initiative is helping to raise awareness of environmental matters, officials say.

Staff from the Ministry of Justice take the metro to work for Car-Free Day, from the Etisalat metro station. The Dubai Municipality initiative aims to reduce carbon emissions and educate about global warming. Christopher Pike / The National
Staff from the Ministry of Justice take the metro to work for Car-Free Day, from the Etisalat metro station. The Dubai Municipality initiative aims to reduce carbon emissions and educate about global warming. Christopher Pike / The National

DUBAI // Get out of your cars and on to public transport, Dubai Municipality bosses have urged their staff.

The municipality already has 200 workers who travel to and from the office every day by bus and metro.

Their employer encourages them by reimbursing transport costs and giving them Nol cards.

Now civic chiefs want more staff to follow suit.

“We want to look at all the employees who have a desk job and don’t need to go out to the field and encourage them to use public transport for their daily commute,” said Hussain Lootah, the municipality director general.

Mr Lootah showed the way on Wednesday by taking the Metro green line at 7.30am from Etisalat to Union stations.

He was accompanied by the Minister of Education, Humaid Al Qattami, the Minister of Environment and Water, Dr Rashid bin Fahad, and Dubai Police chief Maj Gen Khamis Al Muzaina.

It was Dubai’s fifth Car-Free Day, when more than 7,000 vehicles were left at home by staff from 40 government organisations and 25 private companies.

“We are extremely happy to see the tremendous public response from individuals and companies,” Mr Lootah said.

“Every year we are getting more participation and support from all segments of the society in the emirate of Dubai.

“This year the online registration was four times that of last year, which crossed 4,000 entries. This is apart from thousands of employees who have participated without online registration.

“Our primary aim of launching this initiative is to create public awareness on the importance of saving our environment by reducing carbon emissions, using all possible ways in our day-to-day life, as well as to promote public transport to solve the traffic congestion that we face.”

Mr Lootah said taking 7,000 vehicles off the road reduced carbon emissions by 20 tonnes.

“We support this initiative as well as the goal of implementing a change in people’s behaviour regarding vehicle use and encouraging the use of public transport as part of our celebration of National Environment Day,”said Dr bin Fahad.

He said the ministry was considering taking Car-Free Day to a national level, as the whole of the UAE needed to be made aware of environmental issues.

Mr Lootah repeated his view that laws were required to limit car ownership.

“I have received a lot of support on this matter and we also need to re-evaluate how people get driving licences,” he said.

Maj Gen Mohammed Al Zaffin, director general of the Dubai Police traffic department, said: “One day is not enough but I support this initiative as a way to educate the public and try and change people’s habit towards public transport.”

Gen Al Zaffin said he also supported the need to limit the number of cars on the road, but did not feel it was the right time for legislation.

“I don’t think we have the infrastructure yet to impose such laws. You still need a vehicle to get to the public transport points,” he said.

Mr Lootah responded: “Of course we have more than enough infrastructure. Yes, you may have to drive one kilometre to get to a metro but that is better than 100km.

“There must be teamwork. Even today, with a small number of participants, the effect is big.”

Dr Yousif Al Ali, Dubai’s public transport chief, said the system had not yet reached its full potential.

“But we are implementing smart integration to eventually be able to reach small neighbourhoods,” Dr Al Ali said.

“We want access to public transport to be a short walk from every door. Growth in Dubai is exponential and transport systems must keep up.”

Gen Al Zaffin said more bicycle-only roads were also needed.

malkhan@thenational.ae