Tel Aviv can be a cycling paradise. It's sunny more than 300 days of the year, sits on a picturesque coastline, and is relatively small with hardly any hills to speak of. Ganei Yehoshua, a green oasis known colloquially as Park Hayarkon for the river it hugs, covers the northern expanse of the city with trails on either side of the water all the way to its eastern boundaries.
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Cycling has become increasingly popular in the last few years in Tel Aviv, both for transportation and sport. It's an excellent way to get around the city, in many cases faster than a bus. The city-sponsored Tel-O-Fun system gives anyone with a credit card 24-hour bicycle access for just NIS 17 a day (NIS 23 on Saturdays and public holidays, or at a weekly fee of NIS 70). The bikes can be rented and returned (switching off the half-hourly charge) at any of the stations around the city.
Helmets are not required by law on urban roads, and are not provided by the city bike-share program.
While the municipality has started to build the infrastructure to incorporate biking into the city's character – with designated lanes on popular boulevards like Rothschild and Ibn Gvirol, and even on some of the smaller streets – the system is by no means perfect. Pedestrians and cyclists battle for the right of way, cars and taxis have little mercy for anyone daring enough to ride in the streets, and even bikers themselves have yet to figure out a system of riding opposite one another in the narrow paths offered by the city. The city even recently hung up posters urging pedestrians to keep off the bike lanes in its effort to make things simpler.
Those looking for a leisurely ride can spend a pleasant few hours along the cycling trails in the park, which run about 3.5 miles through open grassy knolls and a small forested area, or on the beach promenade (tayelet) from the very north of the city all the way to the southern tip of Jaffa. Anyone hoping to break speed should schedule their rides for the early morning, however, because both the park and the tayelet can get very crowded throughout the day, especially on weekends.
Serious cyclists interested in covering more distance on the open road or trail can leave the city through the nearby towns and moshavim, but that can require riding on major roads where traffic is less than sympathetic to cyclists. Those with access to a car should take advantage of the cyclist meccas within 20-45 minutes drive from Tel Aviv, where people park en masse and start their rides from there.
Tomorrow: The weekend bikers' pilgrimage to the Triangle and other long routes.