Educated Men Lead Local Bicycling Scene

Bicycle riding as a lesiure activity has been picking up speed in Israel over the last few years. Bike riders are now seen pedaling along on highway shoulders, hiking trails and elsewhere in pelotons of family members, friends and colleagues from work. So just who are these road warriors?

A recent study made at Haifa University shows that 90 percent of riders are men between the ages of 31 to 50, as opposed to Britain and America, where a quarter of riders are women.

Most bike riders are educated, according to the study. Two-thirds are college graduates and 17 percent have some education beyond high school.

The Haifa study also shows that 84 percent ride their bikes from one to three times a week, and two-thirds devote two to four hours to each ride, which puts them in the category of "serious leisure activity," according to the researchers.

Paz Rave, a student in the geography and environmental studies department, conducted the survey with Prof. Nurit Kliot and Dr. Noga Collins-Kreiner.

A total of 539 mountain bicyclists were interviewed at six different bike riding sites. The study estimates that mountain biking is growing as a leisure activity at the rate of 15 percent a year, and that the number of active Israeli riders is about 200,000.

The most popular style of riding is cross country, on flat terrain with only mild inclines; existing forest paths and single-track trails are preferred.

The study also shows that riders like to travel in groups, rather than alone.

Despite their diligence and investment in the sport, two-thirds of riders would never take a vacation in Israel for the sole purpose of riding a bike.

Some 94 percent of riders noted that the landscape is very important to them, and 62 percent said that bike paths are insufficiently marked. Half said that they are willing to help install signs and prepare additional trails.

Seventy-seven percent of leisure riders don't pedal to work, although 52 percent said they'd be happy to do so if the infrastructure made it possible. Twenty-seven percent said that showers at their workplaces would enable them to bike to work, and 26 percent answered that bike paths on the way to work would get them to use their bikes.