After living in Los Angeles for many years, I love living in a city where I do not need a car! My main forms of transportation are by foot, communal city bikes and bus. The communal city bikes, Tel-O-Fun, are neon green bikes dotting corners throughout the city. They’re clunky, squeaky and I love them because they are everywhere and I don’t have to worry about it getting stolen since they belong to…everyone! Though they aren’t as cool or as fast as the electric bikes that many more people ride (and are a threat to the green bike system!).
Regarding bikes: Initially, I didn’t understand at first why most bike lanes are ON the SIDEWALK! (mind you, this doesn’t include all of the scooters that are parked on the sidewalks and seem to also take liberty to drive on the sidewalks at times).
Since Israelis walk and ride on sidewalks in a similar manner to how they drive (disorganized), it can make it for a bit of a dodgy sidewalk situation. I’m actually more concerned for pedestrians whom I (THOUGHT) might feel like they’re constantly facing an onslaught of bikers whizzing and weaving past them (plus off leash dogs, kids on scooters and everything else imaginable). (Though, it makes a lot more sense and is safer than putting bikers in the same place as cars and buses.)
BUT, in true non-chalant Israeli fashion, no one seems to mind nor notice the sidewalk balagan. When I’ve asked people about it, they don’t understand what I’m talking about (and this is not due to a “lost in translation” problem).
One challenge with the electric bikes (aside from not hearing them coming from behind) is the number of kids riding them (and the number of kids often on one single bike). Sometimes I feel like an old lady being surrounded by a motorcycle gang when a swarm of kids come up from behind as I struggle to just keep pedaling on my clunky green bike. I can’t even imagine the faces of American parents if they saw their kids riding these bikes sans helmets, whizzing around the neighborhood together or to school with friends with the most carefree attitude. Yes, kids and parents are SO much more carefree (and louder) here!
Another challenge is the coolness factor. I am the dorky American riding with a helmet. The only other dorky people wearing helmets are those riding mountain bikes, covered in spandex. I see them on a paved bike path by my house and not exactly sure if they are actually biking anywhere else since there are no mountains in Tel Aviv. And speaking of helmets, besides me and the spandex people, only little kids are wearing helmets (sometimes). It’s quite sweet to see kids piled into bike seats in the front and back of a parents bicycle as they are taken to school.
The other thing I don’t understand is how so many attractive people with stylish clothes, sunglasses and other accoutrements, pedaling on pretty vintage bikes, don’t seem to sweat. It gets to be SUPER hot in Tel Aviv-how do they pull it off?