Bikers, rollerbladers to take ‘green’ ride through TA

Israel Bike Association says it’s confident country will see improvements in cycling infrastructure this year.

Bicycle riders 311 (R) (photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
Bicycle riders 311 (R)
(photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
Some 400 bikers and rollerbladers will converge on the streets of Tel Aviv on Tuesday night as part of a green transportation week being celebrated by several cities throughout Israel and the whole world, the Israel Bike Association said on Monday.
The Tel Aviv event, joined by events on different days this week in Jerusalem, Haifa, Kfar Saba, Ra’anana, Ramat Gan and Givatayim, will begin in the city’s Cinematheque Plaza at 9 p.m., with wheels rolling by 10 p.m., for a 25-km. “green convoy” course around the city, according to a joint statement from the Bike Association and Tel Aviv Roller.
“Dress code is green,” said Alek Mintz, from Tel Aviv Roller, in the statement.
Donated K2 Atlantis rollerblades will be awarded to the roller with the most exceptional green appearance.
The event will be secured by a Police on Roller Blades unit.
The Israel events are occurring concurrently with European Mobility Week, in which over 2,000 cities across the continent will partake in a “sustainable urban mobility” campaign organized by the European Coordination Secretariat and initiated in 2002, to encourage the use of alternatives to cars and which ultimately culminates in an “In Town Without My Car” day with carless sections of the cities, according to the campaign’s website.
Also occurring on that same September 22 day is World Car free Day, celebrated throughout the world on that date since 2008, that event’s website said.
Meanwhile, citizens of cities around the world are calling on their government representatives participating in the upcoming December COP17 Climate Conference in Durban to make “courageous decisions” that will in turn lead to reductions in greenhouse gases and ameliorate the climate change crisis – something that Israelis, as residents of the Middle East, suffer from particularly acutely, Israel Bike Association and Tel Aviv roller said in a statement.
While the World Car-free and European Mobility official carless day is Thursday, Israel Bicycle Association director Yotam Avizohar told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that the Tel Aviv event will occur on Tuesday as this was the preferred day for the police. Also part of the special week, however, Jerusalem’s branch of the international Critical Mass biking group, which holds rides on the last Friday of every month, will be holding its September ride this Friday rather than next, Avizohar said.
The Critical Mass car-free day will take place on Friday, from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., gathering in front of the Mashbir on the top of Ben Yehuda Street.
“In every city it’s a bit different, but the idea is that they invite people to take part in green environmentalist [modes of transportation] – like ponies, or bike or Segways or rollerblades or whatever,” Avizohar told the Post.
Avizohar sees the Tuesday event as just a first in a series of positive steps that will likely be taken in the next year toward achieving more convenience and safety measures for Israeli bikers.
Israel Railways, for example, is currently in the process of creating a tender for suppliers who provide bicycle hooks and holsters so that it can launch a pilot program for bringing bikes on trains, Avizohar explained.
“We invested a lot of time and energy in defining the specific mechanism with the train company staff, so we are quite optimistic, but in Israel, you can never know until it happens,” he said.
Another major campaign that the Israel Bike Association hopes to see significant progress in soon is a bill in the Knesset to encourage bike transportation, currently up for a third reading, which would provide legislation for bikes on trains, as well as installing parking racks and showers in workplaces and building bike lanes in municipalities, according to Avizohar.
Contrary mayors, he said, “shouldn’t have the possibility” to block the creation of bike infrastructure in their cities, and the hope is that the legislation will go through its third reading by the end of this year, or, probably more realistically, by the end of 2012.
Another major concern of the Bike Association is improving safety for cyclists.
Among the group’s successes on this issue are a greater presence of police officers on roads with many bikers, as well as an agreement from the National Road Company (Ma’atz) to add messages to its electronic signs on Saturdays warning of bikers ahead, Avizohar said.
“We’re working on a campaign with the Road Safety Authority,” he added. “There is also a lot of work to do with the cyclists.”
Despite touting environmental changes for the better in Israel, Avizohar did not demonstrate as much confidence in the upcoming Durban conference, as he took part in the conference in Copenhagen about a year ago and recognizes that the decisions that must be made are not easy ones, he said.
“Israel is not really the issue, but because Israel is so compact we can actually made Israel a laboratory for technologies,” Avizohar continued.
“Since Israel is so compact and 70 percent of its citizens live in cities... and unfortunately the public transportation is not that good, biking is really one of the options for tomorrow,” he added, noting that cycling infrastructure is relatively inexpensive and awareness for environmental and health issues is much improved throughout the country. “We are really optimistic and hope that this year will be a breakthrough year for cycling in Israel.”