Hundreds expected to take part in Bike to Work Day

Festigalgal founder says group wants to change mentality that bikes are meant solely for sport, and not transport.

cyclists in Jerusalem (photo credit: Abir Sultan)
cyclists in Jerusalem
(photo credit: Abir Sultan)
Hundreds of brightly colored bicyclists are expected to take to the streets on Sunday for Jerusalem’s first-ever Bike to Work Day, an initiative designed to change cycling from a niche sport to a mass mode of transportation.
The riders will include Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who cycles from his home in the Beit Hakerem neighborhood to his office in Safra Square on a weekly basis.
Bike to Work is organized by Festigalgal, Jerusalem’s Bike Festival, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), the Jerusalem Municipality and the National Road Safety Authority.
A bike count organized by Cycle Jerusalem two years ago estimated that there are approximately 3,500 people who bike every day in downtown Jerusalem.
Jonathan Plitmann, a Jerusalem native and one of the founders of Festigalgal, credited high gas prices and the threat of global warming with encouraging more people to use biking as their main mode of transportation.
The terrible traffic jams in the city due to the light rail also contributed to more people riding bicycles, he added.
Bike to Work is important, Plitmann explained, to help Israeli society shift the mentality that biking is just for recreation. “Bicycles are thought of just as sport,” he said.
“And cycling as a sport is really developed in Israel. But there isn’t enough importance placed on the idea of bicycle as a general vehicle, and that’s where we need to change the system a little.”
The League of American Bicyclists first organized a Bike to Work Day in 1956, and now celebrates Bike Month every May.
“Some people at work go to the gym to get in shape,” said Avi Volman, who bikes from his home in Beit Hanina to his job in Givat Mordechai every day and is participating in Bike to Work Day on Sunday. “I live in shape, I’m out in nature.”
Organizers also expressed hope that getting residents on their bicycles will encourage the city to create more infrastructure for biking. Jerusalem has a reputation for being a difficult city for cyclists, due to its many hills and lack of bike paths.
“We want the event to raise awareness, that this is a city we can bike in and encourage the city to improve services as well,” said Pearl Kaplan, the bikes project coordinator at the Jerusalem SPNI.
Jerusalem’s week of biking events ends with Festigalgal on Friday in the Musrara neighborhood, with music, a children’s play area, bike workshops, bike decorations and a trick bike competition.