Dubai Municipality employees enjoy making juice while cycling at the Care Free Day celebration in Dubai. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/ Gulf News

Dubai: More than 1,000 entities from the government, semi-government and private sectors took part in Dubai Municipality’s annual Car-Free Day initiative, by taking public transport instead of their private cars on Sunday.

Last year, as many as 300 entities took part in the initiative, with nearly 30,000 people leaving their personal vehicles at home and taking public transport to reach work.

The numbers are a significant increase from 1,000 people in the initiative’s first year in 2010.

This year’s initiative, ‘Not a day … every day’, is under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council.

Hussain Nasser Lootah, director-general of Dubai Municipality, said that this year saw greater participation compared to previous years.

“The next step we are working on is that each organisation or entity would have a car-free day, and then we are looking to have areas of Dubai car-free for a day, until we reach the point where we could have a day where the entire Dubai is car-free,” he said.

This, he said, will help protect the environment by reducing carbon emissions, allowing Dubai to reach sustainability.

He added that the initiative and its improvement year after year is proof of Dubai’s commitment to international environmental agreements, such as the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol), which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A number of officials from various departments, including Dubai Police, Emirates Red Crescent, Dubai Ambulance and others took the metro from Etisalat Metro station to Union Station, where they toured the municipality’s car-free day exhibition.

The trip marked the official launch of Car-Free Day on Sunday at 8am.

The exhibition had a large exhibition of environment-friendly vehicles, which rely on alternative fuel sources, whether solar or electric power or biofuels. There was a special section showcasing the latest practices, techniques and accomplishments relating to air quality, while the third section of the exhibition focused on demonstrating technologies, initiatives and achievements related to maintaining natural resources.

Abdullah Al Shaibani, secretary-general of Dubai Executive Council, who was one of the officials who took the metro, said that the trip was smooth and quick — taking not more than 30 minutes — and traffic-free.

“These initiatives are important in changing the public’s culture on using public transport and more sustainable modes of transport. This culture cannot be changed in a day but, bit by bit, with similar awareness campaigns, it could be done,” he said.

Khalifa Bin Derai, executive director of Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services, said that he urges the public to use public and group transport so there is less traffic congestion on roads, which will enable ambulances to reach people in need faster.

Emirati Aisha Hajji, an employee at a government department, said she takes the metro a lot to work. “When the weather is good, I take the metro to work as there is a metro station near my home. The trip is comfortable and I do not have to get stuck in traffic, and it also allows me to walk, which helps me burn some calories on my way to work,” she said.

She said that she also encourages her children to take the metro when they need to go somewhere.

Grade 9 student Mariam Al Dafa, 13, said that she is not yet allowed to take public transportation alone, but would consider it if there were metro stations near her school in the future.

Al Dafa’s school, Raffles World Academy, took some of their students to the exhibition on car-free day.

“We are learning about pollution and they got us here to get inspired by the ideas in the exhibition, which were really cool and creative,” Al Dafa said.