Beginning in September, the Tel Aviv municipality will give out stiff fines to bike riders who violate laws about where to ride – with tickets of as much as NIS 1,000 issued to riders who take the sidewalk instead of the bike lane.
The rules will encompass riders of both regular and electric bikes. The municipality will train a special crew of traffic enforcement officers over the summer to observe and halt offenders, and they will begin giving out tickets in September.
Biking as a means of getting around consistently congested Tel Aviv got a major boost six years ago, when the city began its Tel-O-Fun city bike program. Similar to programs in many European and American cities, riders can rent a bike for as long as they need it by picking up a bike at one of many docking stations, which are located throughout the city, and dropping the bike off at another station near their destination.
At the same time, the city began developing bike lanes adjacent to major thoroughfares, in order to encourage people to leave their cars at home and commute around town by bike.
The program succeeded – too well, according to city officials quoted by Channel Ten. In 2011 the program included 250 bikes, and has since grown to include over 2,000, at 200 docking stations. With so many bikes and a limited amount of road, which has to be shared with an ever-increasing number of vehicles, bikers often take the easy way – the sidewalk – interfering with pedestrian traffic.
While the biking phenomenon is welcome, the use of bikes on the sidewalk is not, said Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. “The sidewalks are for pedestrians,” he was quoted by Channel Ten as saying. “We are doing our best to get the word out on that. We are happy that biking has become a real alternative to cars for residents and visitors, but we cannot allow the sidewalks to become dangerous for pedestrians. We have been investing a great deal of money in bike lanes, and that is where bikes belong. We will enforce the law as fully as possible.”