In defence of the city's 'car guys'

One of the great things about living in a larger city is the neighbourhoods. Of course, that depends on where you live, but in most downtown neighbourhoods, you can pop down to the street and pick up anything within walking distance - groceries and household items, do some banking, etc. It's not just convenient, either; it's nice to get to know the shop owners and people in your area. It really gives a sense of community.

Unfortunately, in a bid to make Abu Dhabi more "cosmopolitan", a recent announcement by the municipal government may do exactly the opposite. This week, nearly all car workshops located in the downtown core have been ordered to move their businesses to the outskirts of the city. That includes any tyre, car stereo and general repair shops, but excludes Adnoc stations and car dealerships. What that will mean is that residents with a burnt light bulb, worn windscreen wiper blade or flat tyre will not be able to ramble down the street after work to get their car repaired at the local shop. What they'll have to do now is drive 20 or so kilometres outside of the city, possibly to Musaffah, and spend a few hours finding a shop to get the work done. (And what will they do there while they wait? Grumble, because there will be nothing else in the area.)

Part of the reasoning behind the move is to increase parking spaces downtown, but, really, there are other, more effective means to do this. Parking garages, both public and in residential buildings, are an absolute necessity and should be a priority. And, ironically, in this bid by the city to reduce the number of cars in town, it will only add traffic to our roads with the long commutes to garages on the outskirts.

More rationale by the city comes in the form of increased safety for the business employees with proper working conditions, such as sufficient lighting and ventilation. And, I can always agree to better conditions for workers. But these rules can be enforced in town just as much as they can be out of town; they can also be broken or ignored out of town just as easily as in town, too. The government also says the move is to help "beautify" the city. But moving these garages out of neighbourhoods will not only inconvenience its residents, but also drain the areas of a little bit of colour and variety. And it's that that makes a city liveable - and great.

I, for, one will miss these guys. In fact, I feel a bit of a bond with them all - I can't remember how many times I've laid on a driveway underneath a car - in hot summer and bitterly cold winter - adjusting, fixing or replacing something on a beat-up jalopy. They are "car guys", and many of them are highly skilled and ingenious at doing the most with so little. To make a city more cosmopolitan, you have to add services and make them more accessible to its residents. And, in a city so in love with its vehicles, the "car guys" are indispensable.

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