Israeli is transforming more and more of its main thoroughfares into vehicle-free streets, dedicated to pedestrians, cycles and scooters, and public transport. The best known example is Jerusalem's Jaffa Road, which banned all vehicles when the Jerusalem Light rail began operating in 2011.
Next week, as part of its "Fast to the City" project, Netivei Ayalon will open a 450 meter stretch of Herzl Street in Ramla, which will be dedicated to pedestrians and public transport, and Jerusalem Boulevard in Jaffa, where the Tel Aviv light rail will start running in November, has already been closed to traffic. There is also a short public transport- pedestrian street near Herzliya railway station.
Worldwide cities are dedicating main streets to public transport and pedestrians as proven way of reviving the urban environment, and strengthening businesses in the city center by increasing foot traffic and boosting the revenue of stores. The practice has been introduced more slowly in Israel because mayors fear that banning cars from main streets and reducing parking could harm businesses.
Netivei Ayalon VP fast to the city Adi Kein Karni. "We are talking about streets dedicated to people and in many places in Europe and worldwide you don't travel into the city center with a car. Unfortunately, you hardly see this is Israel."
Kein Karni explains that the plan is to free up bustling streets for pedestrians and others using the roads by markets, small businesses and public buildings so that pedestrians carrying heavy shopping bags are not confined to narrow sidewalks and must compete with congested and polluting vehicles.
But the planning of Ramla's new pedestrianized road is far from perfect. The cycle path ends at the junction and does not continue afterwards. Apparently a Mifal Hapayis lottery kiosk and Israel Electric substation have blocked the possibility of continuing the cycle path.
Storekeepers along Ramla's main street have had lean times since the opening of the nearby mall and the repeated lockdowns during Covid. Kein Karnit said, "We want to revive the street and the urban space and attract foot traffic to the heart of the city with all the means possible.
But despite the proven advantages of streets solely for pedestrians and public transport, many mayors oppose such a move, although Kein Karni says that resistance is weakening.
"We see a very big difference in the approaches of different mayors. If there is more transparency and more information then the confidence of the public grows and one of the positive examples is the public courage of the Ramla mayor and the greater access that has been given to residents and merchants. We are talking about natural concerns because this is where people have been making their living for 30 years. But as the mayor provides information without fear and without hiding populist remarks, so it is easier for the public."
Ramla also has the advantage of a network of new highways - Roads 40,44, 431 and 200 - which allow cars to bypass the congested city center. Meanwhile the city center has a central bus station and railway station, which becomes more attractive for pedestrians and public transport and businesses in the city center, once the jams have been eased.
Many more public transport-pedestrianized streets will be introduced in the future including Allenby Street in Tel Aviv when the light rail Purple Line begins operating.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 17, 2022.
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