Sunday, March 6, 2011

Riding to Work


Yair Assaf-Shapira


Riding a bike as opposed to driving a car eases traffic congestion and parking problems, reduces air pollution emissions and also offers health benefits.  Jerusalem is a hilly city, but despite the obvious difficulties such a terrain presents to bike riders, their numbers have been steadily increasing in the city.  Unfortunately, more riders also means more road accidents.  Between 2003 and 2005, the average number of cyclers (ages 20+) injured on the road was 3.3 a year.  Between the years 2008 – 2010, their number jumped to 8.3.  By way of comparison, the number of pedestrians and car occupants (ages 20+) injured in traffic accidents over the same time period dropped.

In 2008, 0.6% of Jerusalem's working population commuted to work by bicycle (about 1,400 cyclers).  Israel’s national average in 2008 was 1.0%.  Among Israel's larger cities, (refers to any city with 2,000 residents or more) Tel-Aviv-Yaffo stood out with its high numbers of cyclers: 3.5% of its working population commuted to work by bicycle.  Of course, Tel-Aviv-Jaffo also boasts a flat landscape and a relatively well maintained and developed network of bike paths.  Bnei Brak, Ramat Gan and Rehovot also exhibited rates that were higher than in Jerusalem. Other large cities, including Holon, Netanya and Petach-Tikvah, exhibited numbers that were closer to Jerusalem’s average, and some cities, including Beer Sheva, Bat Yam, Rishon LeZion, Ashdod, Haifa and Ashkelon, undershot Jerusalem’s average. 

Within Jerusalem, cycling to work was significantly more popular in the neighborhoods situated south of the City Center.  In some neighborhoods 2% or more of the working population commuted to work by bike.  These included: Nahlaot, the eastern belt surrounding Rehavia, Talbiya, Old Katamon, Katamonim, Baqaa and Talpiyot.  These neighborhoods also happen to be situated East of Nahal Rehavia – Saqr Park and West of (or along) the watershed line that crosses Jerusalem, which means that their terrain also happens to be relatively level.  The number of bicycle commuters among the residents of Old Katamon and West of Nahlaot (in the area situated between Nissim Bachar St. and Ben-Tzvi Ave and Madregot St.) was particularly high. The recently-opened bike path running along the old railroad tracks should serve the many cyclers in those areas.