Make way for cyclists in Tel Aviv

The 'Amsterdam of the Middle East,' Tel Aviv has miles of urban cycling paths and a new bike-share program.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Back in the 1990s, Tel Aviv’s bicycles were pushed to the margins of the urban landscape, which lacked bike lanes or bike racks.

In the past decade, however, Israel’s cosmopolitan capital has reimagined itself as an Amsterdam of the Middle East with miles of bike paths on sidewalks, boulevards, and in the streets.

With its generally flat terrain and temperate climate, Tel Aviv is an ideal city to navigate on two wheels. The network, marked with bicycle stencils, runs the length of the city’s Mediterranean seacoast, reaches down leafy historical avenues, and sweeps through the commercial center. The city also inaugurated a bike rental system, the Tel-O-Fun, with some 150 rental stations throughout the city. Usage has exceeded expectations, and the distinctive green and gray bikes with upright seating have become ubiquitous. A leading enthusiast is Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who test-drove one of the Tel-O-Fun bikes and christened a bike traffic light.

Let’s be clear: Tel Aviv is no Amsterdam – most of the bike lanes are on sidewalks. On trendy Rothschild Boulevard, the cyclists must dodge cafe tables, and on Ibn Gavirol, the bike path is interrupted by trees, benches, and building columns. But in a country where the volatile Israeli driver dominates the roads, some of that turf is being retaken by cyclists.

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