EcoBike: A rewarding way to sightsee

A new tour called Tel Aviv Bike & Beer aims to combat the exhaustion associated with tourism by making visitors sweat in healthier ways.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
July 30, 2010 23:15
4 minute read.
A SIX-KILOMETER bus ride produces between five and eight kilos of carbon dioxide, depending on traff

EcoBike 311. (photo credit: Melanie Lidman)

Tourism fatigue may not be a recognized medical condition, but every tourist in Israel experiences it: being led like cattle – on the bus, off the bus; on the bus, off the bus; standing around in a clump listening to a tour guide drone on about this site or that site, before you get on the bus, to get off the bus again.

Sooner or later, the lack of action means your mind is wandering off and your gaze shifts beyond the pile of historical rocks.

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A new tour in Tel Aviv aims to combat the exhaustion associated with tourism by making you sweat for the sightseeing. EcoBike, a two-year-old Israeli bike touring company, has just launched a new summer tour in mid- July called Tel Aviv Bike & Beer, for visitors looking for an alternative way to see the city.

Their hope: that by pedaling while you’re listening, you’ll be interested in the explanations; and with rewards of beer, you’ll be happy to pedal.

“We’ve always offered bike tours in Tel Aviv,” explains Tomer Zaksenberg, who cofounded EcoBike with Amir Rockman, another bike touring expert. “But I was thinking of a way to make it more attractive, how to add a social aspect to it.

“When you connect people, the social involvement makes the whole tour more fun. We added beer because beer makes everyone happy.

“You have a bike tour, it’s not that difficult, and when you start sweating a bit, we stop at a nice pub. It’s a gathering, it’s a happening.”



The route winds through central and north Tel Aviv, stopping at Rabin Square, State Plaza (Kikar Hamedina), leafy Yarkon Park, the chic Tel Aviv Port, and the northern Tel Aviv neighborhoods.

Outfitted with a microphone that actually works, tour guide Zack Novak points out the sites while you’re pedaling, meaning you don’t even have to slow down to appreciate the sprinklings of Bauhaus architecture throughout the city, or learn why the sycamores in the Square of the Righteous Gentiles are so large (it was the former zoo before Ramat Gan).

For sites that require longer explanations – like Rabin Square or the Power Plant – the breaks are a welcome chance to stretch your legs.

Not that you’ll be working too hard. The entire route is about six kilometers, or about three km. per beer.

EcoBike’s pink, yellow or green five-gear cruiser bikes (decked out in Hawaiian flowers) will make you feel like the king of the bike path, as you attract the attention of even the most blasé Tel Avivians enjoying cappuccinos in the afternoon sun.

THIS ISN’T the typical three-hour tour of Tel Aviv, and it shouldn’t be the only tour of the city for first-timers.

“You won’t see the stone alleys of Jaffa, or the trendy cafes in Neveh Tzedek, or the bustling Carmel market.

What you will see is quiet alleys bursting with flowers, political landmarks, and real, honest-to-goodness, live Israelis.”

Biking is one of the best ways to see a city, because you see the places between the touristy sites, where people actually live and play.

“You’re getting to know the city from the back, and not the main touristic attractions,” says Zaksenberg. “We also see them, but we try to show it a bit differently.”

“I’m really amazed at how green and leafy Tel Aviv is,” Rose Golder-Novick, a tourist from Boston, says between pedal strokes as Novak leads the group through parts of the city you could mistake for a jungle. “I would have never gone to those places on my own.”

And who could imagine a better summer job? “I get to work with the coolest tourists out there,” says Novak, who’s meticulously timed the crosswalk signals to ensure a smooth tour. “They’re independent travelers who want to do different things – physically active, young and hip, and are looking to experience down-toearth, local things.”

Local things, like the beer stop at a quaint kiosk in the Yarkon Park. Sipping a lager next to a river as the ibex and ostriches frolic in a nearby enclosure imparts a tranquility that is quite rare in Tel Aviv.

Our tour ends just as the sun dips below a smog cloud, a perfect Tel Aviv sunset.

“We’re really working on getting rid of the smog so the sunsets are better,” jokes Novak, but he’s half serious.

EcoBike, which partners with the green movement in Tel Aviv, offers more than just a tour – it’s an alternative for tourists concerned about their environmental impact on the places they visit. A six-kilometer bus ride produces between five and eight kilos of carbon dioxide, depending on traffic. But a three-hour tour powered by pedaling and drinking beer is pollution-free.

“We’re ecological freaks,” laughs Zaksenberg. “We use recycled paper for all the advertising, all the business cards, whatever. We try to cut out all the things you don’t have to use.”

Feeling warm and fuzzy about the environment is a definite perk to the tour. But the best part comes as I lean back on my helmet, stretch out my legs, and gaze out across the city of Tel Aviv, digesting all the tidbits of interesting history along with an ice-cold beer.

Bike & Beer leaves from the Deborah Hotel, 87 Ben Yehuda Street at 4:30, Sunday through Thursday.

Reservations are strongly encouraged, but not required.

The three-hour tour includes bike rental and helmet, tour guide, water and two beers for NIS 175.

More information: ecobike.co.il Hebrew tours or personalized tours available on request.


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