05/04/2011 03:26

Gilad Erdan praises project, says, “There is nothing cleaner than bicycles”; over 30 stations already active.

Tel Aviv-Yafo has joined a host of European cities by initiating a bike rental program within its borders – allowing commuters to hop on and off at locations scattered throughout the municipality.

The initiative will begin with a month-long trial period that commenced last week, the city announced.

After the first day of project “Tel-O-Fun,” administered by the city’s Economic Development Authority, 200 members signed up for the rental service – which for the first month is available to annual subscribers at rates of NIS 240 for city residents, and NIS 280 for others, according to the municipality.

The first 20 of 150 anchored bike switching stations (each including 20 bicycle berths) were launched initially – with 30 stations already operational by the end of the day Monday, according to the initiative’s website.

Currently, Tel Aviv-Yafo reports that it has constructed over 100 kilometers of bike paths around the city, and estimates that approximately 45 percent of the city’s residents own bicycles.

“We just launched last Thursday the 20 active bicycle stations, and we are adding five to six stations every day. By the end of today we will have about 35 active stations,” Sharon Keren, CEO of Tel Aviv’s Economic Development Authority, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

“By the end of the month we should have around 70 stations, which will fully cover the central area of the city. From then on we will expand to the neighborhoods surrounding the central areas – the southeastern and northern neighborhoods – which will take another two to three months,” she added.

Eventually, riders will be able to sign up for both daily and weekly registration (at NIS 14 and NIS 60, respectively), as well as hourly subscriptions.

The first half hour will be free, the second and third half hours will cost NIS 5, and each additional half hour will increase in price incrementally, according to the city.

As far as the annual subscription goes, the city is getting about 100 new subscribers every day, according to Keren.

The stations are being placed according to several criteria, including overall centrality and accessibility, proximity to public transportation hubs and proximity to bike paths. Additionally, each station will be an average of 250 meters from the next station within the center of the city, the municipality said.

The city government sees the establishment of the new bike rental network as an essential component among the efforts the municipality has taken in the past decade to promote more environmentally friendly methods of transportation.

“It took us about three years to understand what we wanted to do and to execute it – this was a very complicated project,” Keren said.

“We are very happy and excited that this is starting and that we are able to give a very affordable and environmentally friendly solution to traveling around the city without a car, without parking terminals. This puts us in the same line with very advanced cities like Barcelona, London, Paris and so on.”

The Ministry of Environmental Protection supports the new effort, as well.

“Bicycles can be used to go to work, for example, which is of course my dream,” Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan told the Post during an interview on Monday. “There is nothing cleaner than bicycle use – not to mention that riding bikes reduces pollution and traffic.”