Thursday, March 25, 2010
Why this solution to urban public transport wasn’t introduced to Dubai decades ago remains a mystery. Perhaps the reluctance of the authorities to adopt it is directly related to the difficulty in keeping certain brands of non-bus from regarding themselves as ‘special’. The solution adopted by Dubai was to put the bus lanes on dedicated flyovers or in tunnels, chain half a dozen buses together, paint them blue, and stick them on rails. Alas, the cost of providing this sort of bus lane along every bus route is prohibitive. Hence the use of the new secret weapon: Yellow Paint.
For now a strip of yellow paint will offer an impenetrable barrier to private motorists who have a secret desire to be bus drivers. Backed up by the threat of a Dh600 fine, it’s only a matter of time before we learn whether the yellow paint will pay for itself. Assuming of course that the violators regard bus lane abuse with the same disdain as any and all other traffic violations. Perhaps the solution is to stick a cow-catcher on the front of each bus: a snowplough-like device that sweeps the offending Land Cruiser aside.
In addition to buses and taxis, I believe that use of these lanes should be permitted for bicycles and motorbikes. It's been tried successfully elsewhere (Bristol, UK for one). That's me being biased, of course. And why not? It keeps the bikes from lane-splitting, which they would do otherwise.
The Gulf News article includes several photographs of buses and taxis mysteriously not using their dedicated lane. Is this because the drivers fear being fined, or is it because there’s a Gulf News photographer standing in the road?
Now, about a bus lane between Sharjah and Dubai...?
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Hot news on several blogs, websites and Facebook pages is that Sammy the whale shark has been tagged and released. Since her September 2008 incarceration in the Atlantis hotel on Palm Jumeira, there was initially a lot of talk, but little apparent action.
We, Atlantis, are studying the whale shark. It's under medical care and observation before we release it back into the wild.
We, Atlantis, have no intention of ever releasing the animal.
Personally I’ve never darkened the doors of Atlantis, pending the release of the fish. And I’m not alone.
Isn’t it somewhat surprising that Sammy’s release into the wild was a quiet, unassuming affair with no fireworks, photographs or even witnesses? Surely some form of commemorative photo story would have been appropriate to undo some of the public relations damage done by taking the fish from the wild in the first place? Or perhaps a backtrack from “We’re keeping the shark for ever” to “It’s been tagged and released” constitutes the dreaded Loss Of Face. Therefore it has to be done in secret and at the dead of night, so as not to stress the fish.
It’s curious that, according to the inevitably biased Set the Whale Shark Free from the Atlantis Aquarium Facebook group, requests for the shark’s tag number result in the correspondent asking for it getting blocked from Atlantis’ Facebook group. Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida currently does not carry any information about this particular tagged animal on its website. Atlantis’ employees are allegedly banned from discussing the whale shark.
Why the apparent cover-up? What’s with the obfuscation? What is there to hide?
Those of us with a cynical streak a mile wide might infer from the lack of any evidence to the contrary that the shark was removed from the aquarium and turned into cat food. I fervently hope that those cynics are wrong.
Unfortunately, being a threatened, vulnerable species, the aphorism that “there are plenty more fish in the sea” simply does not apply.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
But this angry post is not about the Tiida or the mobile telephone. It's about the Arabic-speaking gentleman in a new Land Cruiser who decided to undertake me and my motorbike by using a bus layby. When it had become apparent that the layby was rather shorter than the distance needed to complete this manoeuvre, the driver of the Cruiser had a choice of three obvious courses of action:-
- Bounce up the kerb;
- Stamp on the brakes;
- Push the motorbike out of his way.
Now, I was unable to take any evasive action. With cars to my left, a Land Cruiser to my right and a Tiida ahead, where was I supposed to go? I stopped.
There was a bellowing of Toyota horn, a shriek of brakes, and then the Cruiser swerved behind me, pushed into the lane to my left, the passenger side window opened, and I was treated to a torrent of Arabic abuse. I don't understand the words, but the tune was obvious.
Given the nature of the offence (and the scratch to my paintwork), I yelled back: "You! Police! Now!" before noting that the damage was extremely superficial, and...well, what was the point? The Land Cruiser driver showed no inclination to stop and await the arrival of the Constabulary.
I noted his registration number, but since getting home I'm extremely irritated to have lost the scrap of paper on which it was written.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
“...the Ministry of Interior made it mandatory for all residents (both Emiratis and expatriates) in four northern emirates to have an ID card from November 22, 2009, to avail [themselves] of its services, except for visa renewal.”
Today’s Gulf News tells us that there is “...no immediate plan to deny any government services — especially to expatriates — for not having identity cards...”
I guess the problem is that whilst since 1 April 2009, it “...was mandatory [for Emiratis who wished] to access government services...all government departments have not followed it strictly...”
That would be such as in when I registered my motorcycle, and was required to produce my passport and visa copy instead of my ID card.
Inevitably, having discovered that without one it would be impossible to function in the UAE is a falsehood, there are plenty of residents who have simply not bothered with the ID card. Indeed, Gulf News states: “People without ID cards continue to have access.”
Today’s newspaper announcement includes an announcement that “...the new enrolment strategy...will be announced within two weeks." So not today, then.
At last, the EIDA has caught on to the idea that processing several million people involves a whole heap of effort. It was obviously not possible to anticipate this, and a couple of years passed before the Authority decided that “...expatriates will soon be able to simultaneously apply for a residence visa, labour card and ID card through a unified application form.” And this will be undertaken“...at primary health centres."
Who can have failed to notice that combining the ID card process with the existing Residence Visa and Labour Card was perhaps a sensible way to proceed? Only the MoI and the EIDA, apparently. But huzzah! At last, light dawns over Marblehead. The dirham drops.
But it’s not going to happen until “...the third quarter of this year, Dr Ali Al Khoury, Acting Director General of EIDA told Gulf News.”
I suspect that within a very few years, the mandatory ID card for expatriates will be quietly forgotten. We have already moved from No government services after 22 November 2009 to No immediate plan to deny any government services, and it’s a small step from here to dropping the ID card idea completely. It will of course remain necessary to produce a passport and visa copy in order to do anything with officialdom, and the ID card will be an optional extra; the option doubtless being decided at random by the ministerial underling, based on what documents are to hand, in order to maximise inconvenience.
Every expat of course has a passport and visa. Only Emiratis within the UAE might conceivably not possess passports, and for this reason, their having some alternative official form of identification seems to be a good idea.
And why the ID card requires any more than a name, mugshot and expiry date is a mystery. My need to register my car, open a bank account or have a mobile phone should not in any way be influenced by what pantheon I may or may not choose to recognise, so the need for my religion to be encoded is unclear.
The Gulf News article, from which I have extensively quoted, is here.
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
If I tell the bank to cease making a regular payment, what do I expect to happen? Discuss how this compares in practice with what actually happens.
I cancelled the standing order through internet banking once it had become painfully apparent that the bank was incapable of not imposing bank charges in error. I had to complain every month, obtain an apology and a refund, and then repeat the whole process the following month. And the month after that. It is more cost effective to pull the cash from an ATM and visit my friendly neighbourhood money exchange. The FOREX rate is better too.
Internet banking confirms that the standing instruction was indeed cancelled. Unfortunately, it seems that internet banking is not attached to the rest of RTB’s empire. So three weeks later I found myself on the phone to the bank, spelling out that the standing instruction must be cancelled. “Yes, now. As in immediately, seeing as you failed to action my specific instruction three weeks ago.”
And it happened to Beloved Wife too, which makes me infer that the problem was not a one-off error, rather a profound system failure over at Red Triangles Towers.
Just as well, then, that the transfer is from me at RTB to me at GoatBank. What would happen if the money had gone to some third party; a party who then refused to refund it? The bank would reimburse me in full, perhaps. Unlikelier things have happened, but these are mostly limited to the pages of Sunday Sport and Fortean Times.
And what if the transfer (that I had cancelled) caused a cheque to bounce owing to insufficient funds? Would the bank compensate me for my extra-spanky short haircut and my stay in a minus-several star desert resort?