Sign language to catch a cab!

DUBAI & SHARJAH - It’s a unique ‘innovation’, if one can say so. Pitted on two sides of this innovation are the commuter and taxi driver.

By Asma Ali Zain And Joy Sengupta (Our staff reporters)

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Published: Fri 7 Dec 2007, 9:30 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 2:08 AM

The driver, on being signalled to stop his car empty otherwise shows he’s rushing off to pick someone else, and speeds past the peeved customer. So some innovative commuters have started using particular sign languages to attract the attention of taxi drivers!

Mariam Ismail, a regular commuter from Sharjah to Dubai said, “I have been told that signalling in a particular way could catch the attention of drivers. But male travellers are better aware of such methods because they converse with the drivers and know the tricks and proper signalling methods.”

For commuters in Dubai and Sharjah, where taxis are among the main modes of public transport, hailing a cab is getting increasingly difficult, residents allege.

“Shortage of taxis is a major concern for us. But even when I see a ‘for hire’ taxi, the driver acts as if he is very busy and has to rush to an important assignment, and therefore, cannot stop to take passengers,” said Sharjah resident Malini S., an employee of a Jebel Ali-based company.

“My company does provide transport to us, but to reach the pick-up point, I have to either walk or hail a taxi,” she explained, adding that finding a taxi remained the most difficult part of her journey.

Ali Mahmood, another commuter explained that because of the restrictions on the use of taxis between Dubai and Sharjah, they were forced to work out a sign language so as to make the drivers understand where exactly they wanted to go.

“A Dubai taxi cannot ferry anyone from Sharjah, and vice-versa. Therefore, we have to signal in a particular way so that the driver knows exactly where we have to go. For example, we have to clearly indicate the direction in which we have to travel,” Mahmood explained.

In Dubai, commuters say the conditions are even more difficult as they have to wait for hours to get a taxi. Shyamali Sinha, who works at the Maktoum Hospital, said, “I have to leave my residence two hours before the work starts as I have to wait for a long time to get a taxi. Most of the times, the taxi drivers simply do not stop. They act as if they have not seen you. Once they stop, and you tell them of a destination they don’t want to go, they cook up a host of excuses.”

Some of the commuters also allege misbehaviour by taxi drivers. “There are taxi drivers who tend to misbehave. Once I had an argument with one over the route to take. He behaved very rudely with me. How can they behave in such a way?” exclaimed Aamir Nadeem, an employee with RAK Bank.

On their part, the taxi drivers say they do not have a choice. Khatir, who drives a Dubai Taxi car, explained, “Every day we have a target to achieve in terms of income. We generally avoid going to places like Deira, Nasr Square and Bur Dubai as these places are crowded. Moreover, now that we work in shifts, things have become even more difficult for us. That’s why some of us lose our cool occasionally. But most of the times we take the passengers to their destinations without any complaints.”

When contacted, Abdul Aziz Malik, the CEO of Dubai Taxi, said they were planning to increase the fleet of Dubai Taxi. “In order to solve the Dubai-Sharjah taxi problem, we are planning to introduce Inter-Emirate Taxi service, which would go and come back full. And the passengers must know that no taxi driver can refuse to carry or misbehave with passengers. The passengers can call up the Dubai Taxi and complain if the drivers do so,” he noted.

At present, the total number of ‘Dubai Taxis’ operated by the Taxi Department of Roads and Transport Authority is 3,235 for Dubai alone. This figure does not include the vehicles of franchise companies such as Cars Taxi (called Citi Taxi in Sharjah) and Metro Taxi, with each having 754 vehicles for each company. The department also operates 238 airport taxis, 39 family taxis as well as Pink Taxis and Special Needs taxis.

The emirate of Sharjah, too has over 3,000 vehicles, including those of franchise companies.

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