Tel Aviv’s journey to becoming the hippest cycling metropoli

Not so long ago, the idea of promoting cycling was a source of levity for Tel Avivs politicians. Now it is part of the citys culture but there are still many problems to tackle, from chaotic streets to the summer sweat factor

When four Israeli cyclists suggested to the Tel Aviv city council in 1994 that it might be a inventive feeling to promote the bicycle as a brand-new mode of transport, they were met with laughter.

They been informed that cycling was something for third world countries commonwealths, supposes Yotam Avizohar, director of the Israel Bicycle Association. The parliament official pronounced: Tel Aviv is a modern municipality. We simply promote sophisticated vehicle mixtures. Very soon we will have a light rail system.

Undeterred, the cyclists held it another try and approached a council official who they knew to be a cyclist himself. This time, they were told that cycling was something for European countries. The soldier read: Israel is a Middle-Eastern country and Israelis are addicted to their gondolas or to their camels. He didnt see how it could ever be changed.

More than 20 years later, the realisation of the Tel Aviv light rail system is still a very long way off. But cycling has definitely become the new mode of transport in the city. Everywhere you go in Tel Aviv, you find parties on bikes, and most of them arent wearing any special paraphernalium. In Israels hippest metropolitan, cycling is the hippest road to get around.

According to city council statistics, about 15% of the inhabitants of central Tel Aviv cycle to work or school. There are a lot miles of bicycle thoroughfares, including a stunning racetrack along the seafront that connects the north of municipality with the ancient shelter of Jaffa in the south. Five years ago, a successful bike sharing organization was propelled, which justification bike use to go up by 54% among Tel Avivians. And every year in October the city hosts a huge bicycle incident, closing the Ayalon highway and the large-hearted freeways to automobiles to make way for 30,000 cyclists.

We have achieved a lot, supposes Avizohar. But it still remains a big challenge to separate the car first mentality.


Bicycles on Tel Avivs Nachlat Benjamin street in the early 1920 s. Photo: Alamy

A hundred years ago, when Tel Aviv was being built, the motorcycle was a much-used different modes of transport in the city. The occasions for cycling are in favour: the cities being flat and compact with temperatures never declining below zero( although the summer hot could be quite a challenge ). And most people simply didnt have the money to buy a car.

But as living standards get up, the car became the dominant different modes of transport, causing unspeakable traffic jams and notorious parking problems. Avizohar articulates: Thats when people started to think about the motorcycle as a clean, rapidly, health and cheap alternative.

To attract attention and exert pressure on decision-makers, bicycle activists organised critical mass rides every last Friday of the month, session at Rabin Square and cycling through the city with signs and decorated motorcycles. The radical ripened big and bigger and is still active today.

A breakthrough came in 1998, when former brigadier general Ron Huldai was elected mayor of Tel Aviv. Huldai promised to build cycles/second directions during his election campaign and turned out to be genuinely committed to promote the motorcycle as the solution to Tel Avivs traffic problems.

A year after he was elected we have begun to experiment with motorcycle trails on the center bookings of the big boulevards, enunciates architect and urban planner Guido Segal, who has been involved in the planning of the Tel Aviv bicycle infrastructure from the beginning. In those daylights, the central territories of the freeways consisted of not much more than sand and trees, and they were quite wide-ranging. They is likely to be be converted into bike trails. It was the easiest way to start, because automobiles didnt have to make way for bikes.

A lot of people were concerned about what would happen at the conjugations once these bike lanes were in use. Some even wanted to set fencings in front of the motorcycle lanes at conjugations, Segal remembers. A senior official of the Ministry of Transport alleged: Parties will die like flies. But of course, this never happened. The more bicycles you have in a city, the less often collisions arise. Once we had the infrastructure, more and more people wanted to use it. We checked the number of cyclists come up and the number of accidents go down. This convinced decision-makers.


Around 15% of the inhabitants of central Tel Aviv( plus the odd pony) repetition to wreak or school. Photo: Ariel Schalit/ AP

Nowadays, Tel Aviv boasts about 85 miles of round paths. And there are new plans to establish a big system of more than 90 miles of cycles/second directions in “the worlds largest” Tel Aviv region, to enable passengers to go to work by bicycle.

It would be a mistake, nonetheless, to expect ingenious cycling infrastructure in the form of Amsterdam or Copenhagen when you jump on your bicycle in the Israeli metropolis.

Some of the Tel Aviv cycle paths consist of not much more than a painted logo on the pavement. Most round roads simply break off at junctions and its not always easy to know where the committee continues if the committee continues at all. And its not rare to encounter a bus stop or a lottery stand in the middle of your round thoroughfare.

Cycling through Tel Avivs tumultuous streets involves resourcefulness and a ability for improvisation its a constant juggling act to avoid pedestrians, objectives that are obstructing the way and motorists, some of whom are clearly not recognizing also that bikes are a legal mode of transport. In numerous streets cyclists and pedestrians share the pavement not only because repetition routes are often part of it, but also because the road is considered simply too dangerous for cyclists.

Shared pavements combined with robust Israeli street etiquette have resulted in flourishing resistance between pedestrians and cyclists. The pavement is for pedestrians. Cyclists who use it should be more gentles, says Avizohar. But being soothing in Israel is an oxymoron.

There has been an progression in the design of motorcycle paths in Tel Aviv, alleges Guido Segal. We started with roads that were used both by cyclists and pedestrians. Then there was a series of colour-coded bike corridors on the pavement. But we are now erecting safe, Dutch-style disconnected bike footpaths at street stage, he remarks. We have a germinating community of cyclists that asks better infrastructure. And “weve been” learning along the way.


Sweat factor: a child cycles/seconds during a heat-wave in Tel Aviv. Photo: Ariel Schalit/ AP

One such learning time was the renovation of Ibn Gabirol Street in 2010, the citys most important vein, connecting the north Yarkon Park to the southern part of township. The street was constricted to attain infinite for motorcycles. But much to the chagrin of the Israel Bicycle Association , no sift bike paths were created. The pavement was simply increased with dark paving marking the rather narrow airstrip allotted to cyclists.

We had a big row with members of the council about it, but we failed to convince them to do it differently, Avizohar remembers. But nowadays everybody recognises that this was a mistake.

The situation in Ibn Gabirol Street has led to fights and accidents between pedestrians and cyclists. In 2014, a 68 -year-old woman was hit by a bike when she got off a bus right next to a hertz trail. She hurt her shinbone and is now suing the city of Tel Aviv, arguing that the council encourages the development of a cycling culture, but fails to protect people who simply adhere to the traffic rules.

When it comes to hertz routes, Tel Aviv is learning from its missteps. In 2012, sift bicycle courses at street rank were building up Bloch Street, but it was by no means an easy project. Angry inhabitants intensely asserted because some 50 parking places were sacrificed in the process. This is Israel: in the weekend we dont have public transport, explains Guido Segal. People announced the work requires our vehicles and we need to be able to park them, but the mayor exited ahead with the programme in spite of the objections. I think he was very brave.

Although Tel Aviv is shaft on its way to developing a serious cycling culture, there are still many problems to tackle. One is the growing usage of electric bikes including illegal ones that go as fast as 25 km / hour that constitute a serious threat to pedestrians. Another was the absence of connectivity. When streets are revamped, bike roads do get constructed, but they do not ever connect to other motorcycle lanes. We dont have a continual network seeing it easy-going to get from A to B, pronounces Avizohar.

Many Tel Avivians still refrain from cycling because of the jeopardy were imposed by oblivious motorists and the shortage of good parking places. And then there is what Avizohar describes as the sweat cause: the scorching hot during the endless Tel Aviv summer. Showers in workplaces certainly are important if we want the number of cyclists to go up, he says.

Showers in workplaces are, along with more bicycle infrastructure and bike parking places, among the measures in the Bike bill, organized to foster cycling in the country. This legislation has was discussed since 2008 but has so far failed to pass. Some Israeli legislators still need to be convinced that the motorcycle is not their own problems but the answer, articulates Avizohar. He is, however, hopeful that the bill will this year pass its final say in the Knesset.

We still have a lot of work to do, he enunciates. But “were about” optimists.

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