Israel's first dedicated road-bike trail is currently in the advanced planning stages, bringing hope to the country's biking enthusiasts that they may finally be able to travel safely.
The trail will circle the Kfar Baruch reservoir in the Jezreel Valley, a huge basin capable of holding five million cubic meters of water. The 3.2-kilometer trail is a joint initiative of the Jezreel Valley Regional Council, the Mekorot Water Company and the Agriculture Ministry.
"This is a unique sports project that will enable road bikers to ride in a safe place, without endangering their lives," said council chairman Eyal Betzer, himself a biking enthusiast.
Aside from paving the trail, the project entails building a fence, installing lighting and other safety features. At a later stage, there will also be a building at the entrance with a bike shop, coffeehouse, gym and changing rooms.
Betzer said the initiative was born partly of his own experience. "After Golan Shalmon, the national cycling champion, was killed by a car on the road, I put away my road bike and kept only my mountain bike. We lose excellent people in such accidents every year."
"Growing awareness of sporting activity and the environment have led to a significant increase in [the number of people] bicycling through nature," he added. "There are thousands of bikers in our regional council, and for lack of a safe alternative, they ride on the road and endanger their lives."
Betzer also hopes the trail will turn the area into a center for cycling tourism.
While Israel has hundreds of kilometers of mountain-bike trails, it has no dedicated road-bike trails; existing bike paths in forests and parks are also open to other users. Bonnie Eshel, chairman of the Israel Cycling Federation, welcomed the project as a good "first step."
However, she stressed, "They need to make additional trails in the rest of the country."
The Jezreel Valley path, she explained, is good for certain types of cycling workouts, but not all. Among other problems, it is too short, given that many cyclists will traverse as many as 150 kilometers in a single training ride.
"For years, we've been asking for cycling trails alongside highways like Route 6 and the Coastal Road," which would be ideal for that purpose, Eshel said - but so far, to no avail.
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