Dubai struggles with traffic

Roadworks, Ramadan and the new school year has brought traffic chaos to the streets of Dubai over the last few days.

DUBAI, UAE: 8 SEPTEMBER 2008: Heavy congestion in The Greens neighbourhood of Dubai. Gregor Mcclenaghan / The National *** Local Caption ***  pic6.jpg
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DUBAI // Thousands of commuters have been stuck in almost endless traffic jams in the last few days as the combined effects of roadworks, Ramadan and the start of the school year brought chaos on the streets of Dubai. In the Greens and Al Barsha areas of "new Dubai", traffic has been backed up for several kilometres and the gridlock worsened yesterday as motorists tried in vain to find less congested routes through nearby neighbourhoods. Some reported being stuck in underground car parks for 20 minutes before they could start their journey. Twenty minutes into his journey to work yesterday, South African engineer Larry McGuinness had only moved a few hundred metres from his home in the Greens, a residential community swamped by hordes of commuters from the new end of Dubai. "There were security guards out trying to direct the traffic, but they weren't having much success," Mr McGuinnesss said. "There are just far too many cars trying to go through there on to Sheikh Zayed Road. It took more than an hour to get to work in Bur Dubai, and most of that time was spent just trying to get out of the Greens." Traffic heading into Dubai is being forced into a single lane leaving the Greens, and with commuters from other areas joining in, the small streets cannot cope. "I sat for 10 minutes just waiting to leave the underground car park on Sunday," said Daniel Brown, an accountant who lives in the Greens. "There was a solid line of cars on the street outside, and nobody would give way. Eventually a guy who was in front of me waiting to leave the car park had to go and ask one of the drivers to give us room to get out." A spokesman for Emaar, the developer which owns the Greens, the Springs, the Lakes and the Meadows, blamed a combination of construction work, changed working hours during Ramadan, and the start of the school year for the chaos. "With construction work under way on the roads parallel to Sheikh Zayed Road, several drivers are using the road network within The Springs and The Greens communities to access Sheikh Zayed Road," he said. "Also, the change in office and school timings during Ramadan has also resulted in added traffic. Emaar is undertaking measures to ease traffic congestion by restricting the tendency of drivers to use the road network of the residential communities for accessing Sheikh Zayed Road. More security personnel have also been assigned to regulate the traffic flow and for guiding drivers." A spokeswoman for the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said additional traffic was normal at certain times during Ramadan, but she was unable to say when the construction work affecting the flow of cars would end. Maj Faisal Essa, from the Dubai Police Traffic Department, said officers were on the lookout for bad driving by people frustrated with delays. "We know it can be frustrating, but that is no excuse to jump red lights or ignore other traffic laws," he said. "We have started a campaign against this kind of behaviour, and I think people realise we are strict." As part of an effort to ease congestion right along Sheikh Zayed Road, RTA officials said two new toll gates near Al Safa, on Sheikh Zayed Road, and Al Maktoum Bridge would be activated from today. Salah al Marzouqi, Director of RTA Intelligent Traffic Systems Department, said the new toll gate on Al Maktoum Bridge will be free of charge while the Floating Bridge is closed from 10 pm to 6 am. * The National