Bicycle parking stands in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: JERUSALEM MUNICIPALITY)
Due to the spike in electric bike usage across the country, the Transportation Ministry is planning the construction of a 150-km. network of cycling routes around the Gush Dan region.
In its first stage, the bike path network will include 10 cycling expressways, built at least three meters wide and making use of bridges when necessary to allow for safe passageway across highways.
Transportation Ministry officials said they will be drafting a detailed plan of the network in the coming months, with the first of the paths already up and running in the areas with greatest demand over the course of the next year, and the entire network complete within four years.
“The autostrada network will serve thousands of cyclists a day, reduce road congestion and pollution and improve the safety of pedestrians and riders alike,” said Transportation Minister Israel Katz.
Not only will the implementation of the network help meet the needs of the cycling population, it will also play a key role in reducing traffic expected to develop as a result of the forthcoming Gush Dan light rail project, Katz added.
Once built, the bike paths will cross through the cities of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ramat Gan, Holon, Bat Yam, Petah Tikva, Bnei Brak, Givat Shmuel, Givatayim, Azor, Ramat Hasharon, Rishon Lezion, Ra’anana, Kfar Saba, Herzliya, Ramle and Or Yehuda.
In addition to construction of the roads themselves, the ministry said that the plans will include the installation of rest stations, drinking fountains, maps and proper signage.
Such a system aims to be similar to those in Copenhagen, Amsterdam and London, where bike paths have showed tremendous success, the ministry added.
In parallel to the establishment of the cycling expressway network, the Transportation Ministry’s planning department will be working to encourage local authorities to construct extensions of the paths within their cities to further increase the use of bicycles. Officials said they are also examining the possibility of installing electric bike rental stations at points along the network.
In the past two years, electric bike usage has markedly increased, with Israel importing about 33,000 bikes in 2013 and 73,000 in 2014, according to ministry data. With the implementation of the autostrada network, the ministry estimates that up to 10 percent of all daily Gush Dan travels could occur through e-bike use.
About half of the trips to work in the Gush Dan are within a 6-km. radius, making bicycle travel the quickest means of transport, the ministry said. For example, a car ride from Givat Shmuel to Tel Aviv’s Ma’ariv Bridge could take up to 50 minutes, in comparison to 25 minutes on an e-bike. Meanwhile, a drive from Bat Yam to the Holon industrial zone could take 40 minutes by car, and only 25 minutes by e-bike, the ministry said.
The entire autostrada program is being promoted by an interministerial steering committee, with representation from the Transport, Finance and Interior ministries, as well as the relevant local authorities, in consultation with the NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System, the Ayalon Highway Company and Netivei Israel-National Transport Infrastructure Company.