Abu Dhabi: Improving road safety thru crackdowns on texting while driving, pedestrian crossings, contactless fare payments.

Driving safety has been a big theme lately — especially after the UAE-Baniyas football star Theyab Awana was killed in a car crash recently, which his father and friends are almost certain was caused by texting while driving. (The National)

Awana Ahmad Al Mosabi, left, has asked motorists not to use mobile devices such as BlackBerry smartphones while driving following the death of his talented footballer son. / Image via The National.

Hard to believe, but the UAE places in the Top 10 worldwide in the ignominious category of highest car crash (3rd) and traffic death rates (8th) in the world, and when RIM’s Blackberry network went down, accidents dropped by 40 percent in Abu Dhabi. (Wired)

So what is the UAE doing to improve this? The police say they’re cracking down on texting while driving, and it’s good to see that the Urban Planning Council is going to put streets on “road diets” to enhance pedestrian crossings. (Gulf News)

Increasing mass transit options will also decrease car use, and Abu Dhabi is expecting to see a five-fold increase in transit use over the next 20 years. As a result, they’re joining a growing list of global cities in offering contactless fare payment on buses (and I imagine the metro, trams and water taxis when they’re built), thanks to Xerox’s ACS company. The bus fleet is expected to triple to nearly 1,500 over the next two years. (Smart Card Alliance)

As the MTA’s video shows above, contactless fares would replace the dirham dropbox (bus fares are only AED 1-2, or $0.27-0.54; less with an Ojra card), and would speed up fare payment by simply tapping your debit card or a separate fare card like London’s Oyster card.

Shorter distances are expected to be easier too, as Al Ain is finishing up infrastructure improvements that included bike lanes. (Construction Week)

For longer distances, there are finally dates for the ambitious GCC rail network: construction is expected to start in 2014 and finish by 2017-2018. The rail line is also slated to go through Oman into Yemen. (Construction Week)

Elsewhere in the region…
Doha, Qatar’s metro will be 212 km (130 mi) long, triple the length of Dubai’s metro and nearly as long as New York’s, and is expected to be completed by 2020 and in time for the 2022 World Cup. (Construction Week)

Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council is partnering with the Seychelles to develop the master plan of its capital Victoria. (Seychelles Nation) Skidmore, Owings and Merrill will make the master plan for Oman’s Duqm City. (Oman Observer)

Oman awarded the contracts to Turner and Townsend to expand the Muscat and Salalah airports. (Construction Week)

Could the UAE really be waste-free by 2015? Recycling bins in Sharjah are a start. (Construction Week) Liquid of Life is also helping improve water filtration efforts to cut down on bottled water. (AME Info)

Waldorf Astoria is planning its $272 million new hotel on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah islands, while Hilton Worldwide has 40 hotels in the MENA pipeline, including two new ones in Beirut. (Construction Week)

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