Tel Aviv used to be an urbanist’s nightmare, but it is learning fast. And it is growing on me though I like Jaffa, its sister city better. When I first met Tel Aviv 20 years ago it was polluted and noisy. Now it’s trying with all its might to do good by its people: The City has launched a creative solution to enable restaurants and bars to extend their outdoors seating areas, assisting owners to increase dining capacity while ensuring social distancing required by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The municipality has rolled out a series of sidewalk-level platforms at the expense of road space, permitting restaurants and bars to add dozens of outdoors tables and chairs, and welcome significantly more customers.
The move accelerates a key Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality urban policy to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists, and encourage local trade across the city, highlighted by a recent municipal decision to convert 11 streets into pedestrianized commercial zones.
Sidewalk-level platforms were introduced this week along Chayim Vital Street in Tel Aviv’s vibrant (also very stinky from cat pollution) Florentin neighborhood, home to many popular restaurants and bars.
While the street represents an important thoroughfare for vehicular access to surrounding streets and residences, and cannot be entirely pedestrianized, the platforms provide a “breathing” sidewalk that may be extended to support local businesses and encourage greater foot traffic.
In May 2020, Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality announced that it would convert an additional 11 streets into pedestrianized zones, open strictly to pedestrians and cyclists. The decision follows the successful conversion of Tel Aviv’s Levinski Street into a 24/7 pedestrian zone and shut Sheinkin Street to traffic on Fridays during the past year.
In addition, the municipality has placed more than 1,000 outdoor chairs and umbrellas across pedestrian zones to encourage visitors to take advantage of the newly-converted areas.
Last month, as part of large-scale efforts to emphasize pedestrian travel, reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, Tel Aviv said it would double bike paths in the city from 140 km. to 300 km. by 2025. That’s a great plan, but if they are overtaken by rude and vicious and usually inexperienced moped drivers or electric bikes racing to 100km/hour, no thanks.
The implementation of the plan is expected to reduce traffic congestion in the city by 30% says the city but to what personal expense if the bike lanes are not policed.