Tel Avivians on public bikes
Tel Avivians on public bikesHadas Parush / Flash 90

The government is set to embark on a major program to encourage commuters to take public transportation or use bicycles in congested cities in central Israel. The program, which will cost NIS 6 million ($1.6 million) will entail licensing dozens of vehicles to travel new routes within cities, transporting drivers who leave their vehicles at park and ride facilities outside of town, as well as expanding bicycle rental programs.

Plans for the new project have been on the books since 2013. The project is set to begin within the next few months. The Environment Ministry will provide financial assistance to local authorities for the implementation of the plan, with more crowded cities getting more resources. According to a recent OECD study, 2,500 Israelis die of air pollution related causes each year, half of them due to the direct effects of pollution from cars and buses.

Among the cities that will benefit from the program will be Givatayim, where new bicycle rental stations will be installed; Holon, where the municipality will partially subsidize a taxi service that will carry passengers from the city's train station to business districts and industrial zones; and Tel Aviv, which will get new bike paths and more bicycle rental stations. Jerusalem, too, will benefit from the project; a new subsidized jitney service will operate between Har Homa and Givat Shaul, and the city will receive funds for the development of a bikers' app, which will have maps and provide directions on where to rent bikes.

Commenting on the project's approval, Deputy Environment Minister Ofer Akunis said that the “war against air pollution will prevent the deaths of Israelis. In addition, they will save a great deal of money if they leave their cars at home one day a week and use alternative means that we will offer municipalities to get to work.”