The approval by the socioeconomic cabinet of a NIS 100 million bike trail covering 4,900 kilometers is yet another indication of the growing popularity of cycling, a recognition of the need for physical fitness and the desire to save on energy and pollution.
However there is a major problem – and it’s getting worse.
Bicyclists and motorcyclists are usurping the sidewalks that were built for pedestrians.
It’s bad enough when the sidewalk is wide, to have a two-wheeled mode of transport whizz past you from the back, or come at you full speed from the front – but when it’s very narrow, the experience is sufficiently harrowing to give some people a heart attack.
A sidewalk, by its very name, is designated for walkers, but pedestrians
today have to contend with shopping carts, baby carriages and
strollers, tricycles, scooters, roller skates, skateboards, Segways,
wheelchairs and, to top it off, motorbikes and bicycles.
Some of these means of transporting goods, infants, children and adults
can obviously not be cast out into the road, but certainly motorbikes
and bicycles, taking into account the speed at which they travel, the
weaving by their riders, the fact that their riders travel in both
directions without having to observe road rules on the sidewalk,
constitute a mortal danger to people who are walking – especially
elderly people with mobility problems, who can’t jump out of the way
It’s a disaster waiting to happen.
TEL AVIV is way ahead of Jerusalem in marking its wider sidewalks with
designated bike trails. This would be well and good if every cyclist
observed the rules, but they don’t.
Many cyclists, especially motorcyclists, weave in and out between
pedestrians, creating a very scary environment.
It’s terrifying when there’s a group of cyclists racing each other on
For some odd reason, cyclists also challenge themselves to see if they
can ride past bus stops in which the bus shelter is very close to the
curb, with only the narrowest stretch of sidewalk between it and the
This is where bus passengers stand to wait for the bus. Totally
oblivious to the discomfort let alone the dangers that they cause, the
cyclists ride across this tiny area, instead of behind the bus shelter
where there is usually much more room.
Last year, while waiting for a bus in Tel Aviv, I was hit by a cyclist
who couldn’t control his bike. On another occasion, while waiting at the
traffic lights to cross the road at a busy intersection, I felt myself
being nudged out of the way by an impatient motorcyclist, who wanted to
be first off the mark and had come up on the sidewalk behind me and
When they’re on the road, most motorcyclists are equally arrogant and
aggressive, weaving between cars, ignoring traffic lights and taking the
sidewalk option when the density of cars makes weaving difficult.
Daydreaming on the sidewalk has become a thing of the past. No
pedestrian can afford that luxury any more. We all have to be constantly
on the alert.
Not only do motorcyclists and bicyclists ride on the sidewalk, they also
park on the sidewalk. Walk past almost any restaurant or coffee shop in
Tel Aviv and you will see at least a dozen two-wheeled modes of
transport parked outside. Most park at the edge of the sidewalk, but
when there’s no longer any room there, they also park in the middle and
alongside the buildings, yet again taking away from the area intended
We’re not even going into the four-wheeled vehicles that park on the
sidewalk, often in such a way that pedestrians are forced to walk on the
I must admit that I’ve often been tempted to slash the tires of such a
vehicle, but that would be a pointless exercise because its owner would
then have yet another excuse for not moving.
THE SITUATION is getting worse almost by the day, without advocacy
groups rising to meet the challenge.
When pedestrians complain to each other, the conversation usually ends
with the typical Israeli acceptance of what fate has to offer: ma
– what can we do. It’s not a question.
It’s a statement.
But laws can be enforced. It’s not all that long ago that people smoked
in buses and taxis. One can’t do that any more – and no one even tries.
It’s time that our lawmakers started walking in clusters through city
streets to experience the hazards that confront pedestrians daily, and
then maybe by force of law we’ll be able to reclaim the sidewalk.