Two-wheeling around the capital

With a mass cycling event coming up, the municipality is pushing the local cycling scene in the right direction.

The Turkish Circuit cycling event (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Turkish Circuit cycling event
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In case any of you drivers, motorbikers or public transport patrons haven’t noticed, cycling is on the up in Jerusalem. Naturally, given the local topography, the directional epithet is a constant factor in all non-motorized two-wheeled forays in and around the capital, but that clearly does nothing to deter the thousands of mountain and road cyclists that crisscross the city’s streets and environs on a daily basis.
And while Jerusalem may have some way to go to keep up with cycling-friendly infrastructures such as that on offer in Tel Aviv, the municipality is clearly flexing its meager financial muscle to push the local cycling scene along in the desired direction.
That will be evident at this year’s Jerusalem Sovev Turki Elite (Turkish Circuit) event, which will kick off at 6:30 a.m. on May 16. This is the second edition of the mass cycling and outdoor-activity gathering, and according to Jerusalem Development Authority tourism department manager Ilanit Melchior, the event is gaining popularity.
“We had 2,500 participants last year, and we expect an increase to 3,000-4,000 people this time round,” she says.
The headliner of the Sovev Turki program is rides for bikers of varying degrees of fitness and experience, with two routes laid on – one of 20 km. and another of 40 km. The circuits make the most of the scenic beauty in and around the capital, and follow an attractive route through the recently established Jerusalem Park, the country’s largest metropolitan open green space.
Jerusalem Park offers all sorts of possibilities for visitors looking to hike, cycle or just soak up some bucolic vibes. The park, in fact, comprises four individual green expanses – Tzofim River Park, Arazim Valley Park, Motza Valley Park and Refaim River Park – and with a combined area of some 3,700 acres, is the largest park in the country.
It forms a verdant perimeter around Jerusalem, and in places reaches into the city too. Jerusalem Park contains forested areas, orchards, archeological remains, springs, picnic spots, bike paths and routes for both mountain bikes and road bikes, with plenty of parking facilities in the vicinity. All that will be within eyeshot and leg’s reach of the Sovev Turki registrants.
“The idea behind Sovev Turki is to connect the story of Jerusalem’s metropolitan park and the tourist attractions – like with the Jerusalem Marathon, which had all sorts of add-ons,” says Melchior.
“There is the Biblical Zoo, the Old City and all sorts of sites which people coming in to the city for the cycling event, and locals, can enjoy.”
Of course, budget matters are never very far away from the minds of the powers-that-be. “We are offering special discounts for hotel accommodation in the city over the weekend,” Melchior says. “People will arrive on the Thursday, and may stay over the weekend, and we hope that by providing attractive deals, that will encourage them to stay in hotels here.”
Both bicycle rides will kick off from the First Station, with the longer route taking in the Old City Walls, Arazim Valley Park, the Kennedy Memorial near Moshav Aminadav, the zoo and Hamesila Park, before ending back at the train station. The more family-friendly 20 km. ride will take the cyclists through Tzofim River Park, the Train Track Park, the Biblical Zoo and White Valley before returning to the First Station. Drinks and light refreshments will be provided at various stops en route, and DJs will keep the music coming throughout.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, a keen runner, is a strong supporter of Sovev Turki.
“The city of Jerusalem offers cycling enthusiasts the biggest and most beautiful cycle trail in Israel,” he declares. “The green and pastoral trail connects the city with nature and enables the constantly increasing numbers of professional and amateur riders to enjoy the city’s unique natural landscapes and heritage.
I invite residents of Jerusalem and the region, and cycling enthusiasts from all over the country, to take part in the bike ride, and to participate in a weekend event full of nature, sport and fun.”
Barkat, Melchior and the other organizers are clearly doing their best to get locals and participants from further afield to get some hands-on enjoyment in, and to get a better handle on various parts of the city. There are three guided tours in the Sovev Turki program, which all set off from the First Station at 11:30 a.m., each lasting around an hour and a half.
The “Promenade Walk” tour will traverse various points along the Sherover Promenade in East Talpiot. Participants will take in the spectacular view of the Old City and surrounding landscapes afforded by the walkway, and hear stories of Jerusalem’s evolution through history. The “Not Off the Beaten Track” route will offer walkers a glimpse of some of the city’s lesser new beauty spots, as well as Hamesila Park and the restored old train station.
Finally, the “First Outside the Walls” tour will take members of the public through the alleyways of Yemin Moshe, the first part of Jerusalem to be built outside the Old City in the 19th century. Tours cost NIS 20 per participant or NIS 40 for a family ticket, and advance registration for the tours is required, at
Melchior and her cohorts hope that the annual event will lead to bigger and better things, and will help to proffer Jerusalem to the rest of the country as a quintessentially bike-friendly place to visit – supposed challenging topography notwithstanding.
“You change the image of a city, and make it more accessible and more appealing in all sorts of ways – through a marathon or all kinds of arts of cultural events – and you can convey a sense of the rich pickings there are to be had in Jerusalem,” she says.
“I am looking forward to seeing Sovev Turki grow.”
For more information about Sovev Turki: