A marathon headache

Despite the event’s overwhelming success, some residents complained about road closures and lack of public transportation.

dont reuse 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
dont reuse 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Radio and television interviews with participants in last Friday’s Jerusalem marathon were by and large enthusiastic. Mayor Nir Barkat, who was one of the runners, described it as an extraordinary experience.
The weather was not exactly conducive, and participants shivered under the onslaught of an icy wind while they waited for the race to start.
With the exception of bicycles and motorcycles, traffic along the route of the marathon was brought to a halt. Some of the city’s main traffic arteries were not only bereft of vehicles, but were almost empty of pedestrians. Wind and rain kept many Jerusalemites in the warmth of their homes even though Friday is usually a busy shopping day in Jerusalem, especially in Mahaneh Yehuda market.
Except for those who are good walkers and have the stamina to carry home their purchases, shoppers mostly stayed away from the market last Friday. The reason, of course was that bus routes and the light rail, which take passengers to the market, had been suspended for the duration of the race.
Not everyone was aware of the marathon route, and some of the people struggling along King George Avenue in the hope of catching the light rail train in Jaffa Road were very upset to discover that if they wanted to get to the market or the central bus station, they could depend only their feet.
For those who did venture into town, the huge reduction in air pollutants may have been very welcome, as was the ability to cross the road without paying heed to traffic lights. Not that there were many traffic lights in operation; many had been switched off because there was no need for them.
On Schatz Street, a physically disabled woman operating an electric scooter attempted to get past the metal barrier that had been placed there, an example of the little consideration that had been given to the needs of the disabled. Although the streets were nearly empty, access for the disabled was far from easy because they had to cope with so many cordoned-off areas.
Unless they came to town late in the morning or early in the afternoon, able-bodied people had to walk there and back.
Several shops were closed and the ones that were open had few to no customers. Even the coffee shops, which are usually crowded to capacity on Fridays, had minimal clientele.
A giant screen in Zion Square featuring the progress of the race was barely given a glance by passersby. There were no clusters of people stopping to look at it. When a pack of runners came along Jaffa Road in the direction of City Hall from the Straus Street intersection, no one lined the street to cheer them on. Here and there someone huddled in a doorway to escape the wind and the light rainfall.
People who don’t read newspapers or listen to the radio could not understand why there was no public transportation and complained bitterly to security personnel who were guarding the roped-off sections and metal barriers throughout the city. Worst-hit were the residents of the city center and those living in Rehavia and Talbiyeh and other neighborhoods leading to the city center. These are the perpetual victims of major city events, and this latest headache caused strangers to share their grievances with each other.
There were other gripes about the municipality’s lack of consideration for what may disturb or inconvenience residents. Less than a handful of people returning from their trek to town smiled with grim satisfaction when an angry wind knocked down the metal barriers in Paris Square.
“Even the wind doesn’t like the marathon,” said a man who lives on Jabotinsky Street.
There were no objections to the marathon per se – only to its route and what that meant in terms of mass discomfort.