Jerusalem Advances New Plan to Quadruple Bike Lanes

The mayor says the city could also welcome electric scooters if the third master plan in the last decade to add 150 kilometers of bike paths goes ahead

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Bike paths in Jerusalem, 2020
Bike paths in Jerusalem, 2020 Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Jerusalem is advancing a plan to quadruple the amount of bike paths in the city, which has lacked bicycle infrastructure until now.

The master plan, which was submitted to city hall and is in the final stages of approval, would add 150 kilometers of bike paths to the 45 kilometers of paths that already exist. 

Other cities around the world have taken advantage of the coronavirus crisis to invest in developing bicycle infrastructure. Israel is lagging in this regard, and even Tel Aviv, which has the country’s most developed bicycle infrastructure, is behind relatively speaking. Tel Aviv recently announced that it intends to add dozens of kilometers of additional bike paths.

This is Jerusalem’s third master plan for bike paths in the past decade. The previous plans were never implemented. The latest one will require funding for 70 kilometers; the others are laid out in the city’s five-year plan.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon intends to approve the latest plan and see it through to completion over the next few years. The exact timetable is yet to be announced, and depends partly on other transportation projects.

A man riding his bicycle in the city center in Jerusalem, September 15, 2020 Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Organizations that were involved in the latest bike path plan say that they believe the city is more serious about implementing this one. Part of the plan will necessitate other changes to traffic, such as limiting vehicle speeds and making bicycle crossing points, including elevators at points where streets are at different levels.

Jerusalem does not have statistics about use of bicycles and scooters in the city; in past discussions, doubts were raised about whether residents would be interested in cycling through a city as hilly as Jerusalem. Leon rejects those concerns, noting that they are not relevant for the many residents who use electric bikes and scooters.

Currently, Jerusalem does not permit short-term scooter rental companies to operate in the city, but Leon says they will be welcome in the city and that electric scooters will be able to use bike paths, as long as this is done safely.

The municipality is currently discussing permitting such companies to operate.

The city has had a rental scooter pilot project in the Har Hotzvim area, where most of the city’s tech companies are located, for the last year and a half, but it is considered a failure due to low usage. Experts say that this is because the scooters cannot be used to commute to other parts of the city.

Bike paths in Jerusalem, 2020Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

A proposal to expand the pilot project to central parts of Jerusalem is to be debated this week.

The new plan calls for bike paths run along major traffic arteries, in commercial neighborhoods, and near government offices, the light rail and the central bus station. Sections have already been built from Givat Mordechai to Sacher Garden and Beit Hahayal; other sections are being constructed from Begin Road and the Gazelle Valley to Givat Mordechai. Another section along Ruppin Boulevard is also under construction, and a final 800-meter stretch was just completed near the Israel Museum. Another section is planned for Kaplan Street from the Israel Museum junction to the train station; this section should enable access to the Knesset and the government offices.

Israel has a national plan to increase bicycles to 10 percent of city traffic, and to have 40 percent of transportation infrastructure designed for pedestrians or bikes by 2040.

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