All roads lead to Abu Dhabi, or Sharjah if you prefer. It is an applicable saying for the emirate of Dubai, where at least five main roads guide you through the city. But which road is preferred, and why?
The backbone of Dubai’s road network system is Sheikh Zayed Road, directly linking to neighbouring emirates of Sharjah and Abu Dhabi – and there on, to the rest of the country.
However, it is also the road with the highest traffic volume and the highest number of speeding fines. And, maybe most noteworthy; the most expensive route to take.
At two locations on this road motorists are asked to pay the Salik toll - a toll of Dh4 for crossing one way.
“I pay Dh700 a month on Salik fees,” says Faika Hfaiedh, who lives in Jumeirah Lakes Towers but works in BurJuman Center. “I have to cross both points, at least twice a day.”
The road toll is for many people reason to look out for alternatives, which are definitely there. Depending on the location, there are multiple roads one can take for no cost and less traffic.
“I either use Emirates Road or Al Khail Road, and I save Dh8 every day,” says Fairoz Uthman, A Pakistani who lives in Al Barsha and travels to his company in Business Bay every day. “It’s worth it for me, because these routes are only half a kilometer longer.
Yet, the Tunesian Faika prefers to stick with Sheikh Zayed Road. “For me, any other road would be much longer. I tried using Jumeirah Road, but the amount of money I spent on the extra gas is the same as I would pay for Salik. I prefer the fastest route.”
Speed is indeed a factor taken into consideration, especially for the early birds who have to be at work at a particular time. At the moment, the onus is on Sheikh Zayed Road, which is the main vein running through the city and has no physical obstacles such as speed bumps, traffic lights or roundabouts. “I think Sheikh Zayed Road is always faster,” says Erica Jaffa, a taxi user who recently came to Dubai.
However, the time frame within which this road can be used from point to point is highly dependable on the time one chooses to do so, as the road witnesses daily traffic jams at peak hours causing many to move away from the city’s main road.
Emirates 24|7 decided to conduct its own drive time experiment over a course of three days, with BurJuman and Times Square shopping malls being the start and end points, respectively.
The journey commenced at 7.30am each morning from Bur Dubai, with the routes changing to explore which road has the shortest drive during rush hour.
On day one, our reporter chose to drive down Jumeirah Beach Road, with the commute lasting 27 minutes.
The road comes across as cumbersome with the 24 traffic lights that are crossed on this journey, but the drive is smooth and relatively stress free with three lanes to allow commuters to weave through the rush.
On day two, Sheikh Zayed Road was the route of choice. But it was immediately evident that despite the straight drive, the gridlock begins at Union Co-op supermarket in Karama and continued down the highway.
The commute took a whopping 41 minutes this morning, almost double of Jumeirah Beach Road.
Day three saw a drive down Al Khail Road, which had to be connected via first interchange.
While the drive is the fastest of the three, due to the connecting arteries being confusing and cumbersome, the time was clocked in at 52 minutes.
Emirates Road proves to be a popular speed beater too. The Indian commuter Sam Majeed always opts for Emirates Road to travel to the other side of town. “Emirates Road may be more kilometers, but it is still faster because there is barely any traffic and there are no obstacles,” he says.
Furthermore, the speed limit on Sheikh Zayed Road is 100kmph, while it is a 120kmph on Emirates Road. ”I always use Emirates Road,” says Nasser Roozafzay from Iran. “The speed limit on that road makes my trip much shorter.”
Currently RTA is undertaking the widening and improvement project on Al Khail Road, which is to add yet another attractive alternative to paralleling Sheikh Zayed Road and Emirates Road.
The project, planned to be completed in the first half year of 2013 is expected to take away some of the pressure on other roads, and is likely to be welcomed by many road users opting for convenience and reduced travel costs.