For the two years I lived in Jerusalem, I tried to bike with my crappy communist throwback – a mini gearless green metallic wonder that I bought for the flat streets of Tel Aviv. The bike looked too pitiful to steal and that’s why it suited my tastes. Transplanted to Jerusalem, the labyrinth of hilly neighborhoods, lack of bike lanes, raised curbs and pedestrian walkways made out of several stories-worth of stairs became a nightmare for me and my sorry bike. I chose to walk bus or take taxis instead. We parted ways by my neglect. Eventually the bike was crushed by a car trying to park on a sidewalk – also too typical for Israeli cities.
While my glutes got a work-out, I dreaded biking into the city center from Rehavia where I lived. Yet, despite the discomfort on your bum muscles, cycling can be a great way to enjoy Jerusalem, especially if your bike is a mountain or city bike with multiple gears to help you get up steep hills, possibly in the snow. One past Green Prophet writer Michael Green, now living in the UK, was a big fan of cycling in Jerusalem, and wrote about cycling in the historic city here – The Cycling Nightlife of Jerusalem.
Guys and gals get out on their bikes for beer at night.
No doubt cycling is picking up speed in the Middle East, and Israel probably more so than any other country. Once and a while cyclists organize Critical Mass events, where hundreds and sometimes thousands of people meet up and cycle together. The idea is that when enough people participate in cycling around the city, the practice catches on to become a self-sustaining habit. The event can also be used to protest something and grab people’s attention.
Hopefully city engineers will pick up on the need, and make the city more bike friendly. This week on the 25th of January, cyclists will meet on Friday at noon at the Mashbir (atop the pedestrian walkway) at the top of Ben Yehuda Street for their monthly ride. Resident or tourist? Make Jerusalem more fit for cycling and less known for grid-lock. Jerusalem is a nightmare when presidential delegations are in town. A bike can help you plan your escape route.
Lower image via Jerusalem Midnight Biking