Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality has already converted more than 20 streets in the city into pedestrian malls, which are closed to vehicles. After the Levinsky Market area and Nahlat Binyamin, the turn came last month for some of the narrow streets in the Kerem Hateimanim and the Carmel Market area to become walk-only zones.
Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Meital Lehavi, who holds the transport portfolio, said, "For years we have been trying to create new arrangements in Kerem Hateimanim. This is an opportunity that is supposed to serve the neighborhood DNA. Kerem Hateimanim was built more than 100 years ago even before the establishment of the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo. We have to create order among the range of new pressures that have been created in recent years."
Eleven stretches along streets in the area have become pedestrian malls including the stretch between Carmel Street and Nahlielli Street and Carmel Street and Elyashiv Street. Market stall-owners and business in the Carmel Market are now only allowed to load and unload goods in the mornings. In another six months a loading and unloading area to the southwest of the market will be opened and within three years a logistics center will be built.
Lehavi said, "All the streets that we have designated in the Kerem neighborhood will be closed the entire day, except for Simtat Hacarmel, which will be open from 6am to 10am for the benefit of unloading goods and even that is temporary."
The Municipality is implementing these measures after a process with the neighborhood's residents. Lehavi, who has met with them several times, said, "They were involved from the start. We changed the plan three times after discussions with the residents. Of course there are those who are protesting against every change and there are also those who are opposed. There are people who are used to parking by their homes because this is an unregulated neighborhood. Suddenly they won't have that. The neighborhood's location close to the market, in the heart of the city, near the sea, brings in many vistors and causes chaos, and it's impossible to have chaos in a neighborhood built more than 100 years ago. It's untenable.
"At first everybody was in favor of the idea but then concerns were raised, like what would happen if an emergency vehicle wanted to access a fire. Of course entry for emergency vehicles is permitted. There were also concerns about reducing parking because when you create order you reduce parking availability but the moment we allocate what remains for preferential parking for residents, according to our reckoning they benefit and don't lose out."
The next target, according to Lehavi, is Florentin. "That's a neighborhood that can have pedestrian malls and has very heavy congestion throughout, with a lack of green areas and proper places for sitting around. We are now considering closing some streets in order to create a network of green walkways in the neighborhood that will provide quality spaces for spending time."
Lehavi explains that the municipality has not finalized definite plans. "We are not fanatical about this. In an area where it becomes clear that there are no benefits, or that there is damage rather than benefits, we will reverse what we have done. We are currently considering reversing the pedestrian mall that we created in Ha'arba'ah Street. It seems that the link up to the cinematheque is not strong enough and all the operations in the area don't justify it."
"There has been a transformation in Herzl Street and it is not for the good."
City planner Sharon Band, a partner in the B'Mida Urban Planning and strategic business, tourism and community development company, thinks that the principle is correct but that you also have to look at the outcomes and make the changes in a cautious and intelligent way. "The concept of reducing traffic and vehicles is excellent but it is also important to keep a balance with the other functions of a street like commerce," she says.
According to her, all the thinking about this transformation needs to be comprised of three elements: alternative transport solutions; protecting a range of businesses; and providing logistical solutions.
"As a veteran and strong mayor, Ron Huldai is in a position to allow himself to do this. Other mayors find it difficult to implement unpopular measures. In addition, Tel Aviv has a more developed public transport system compared with other cities. These are two advantages that make these measures easier.
"Regarding the variety of streets, you have to distinguish between types of streets, and I am not sure that Tel Aviv is doing this. The city is encouraging restaurant and café culture and it is suitable for them of course. But there are other business owners, mainly in regular residential neighborhoods. Hardware stores, for example, don't need an area for tables and chairs. It lives off of passing customers who want to stop nearby and shop and without alternative parking, they'll prefer to go to the big chains.
"Look at Herzl Street, for example, which is an intensive focus for furniture businesses in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area where they have transformed the street but not for the good. The street has far fewer shoppers today, and the number of furniture stores, which in the past were the heart of the street, are substantially fewer in large part due to the cycle path, which has disrupted the ability of store owners to manage their businesses. "In any even if you want to make a radical change in the functioning of traffic in an area, you need to analyze the finest points of a street's population and the needs of its businesses and provide them with solutions. Even in a location that has restaurants and leisure like Kerem Hateimanim it is not enough just to provide a place for loading and unloading for the businesses. Worldwide they are working on solutions like last mile municipal logistics centers. In Tel Aviv they are doing work on this but it is just starting out at pilot trial level."
"Much noise damage because of transport changes"
Lior Kay Avishai, one of the leaders of the Kerem Hateimanim Residents Association and the Citizens Parliament of Tel Aviv claims that the change is damaging the neighborhood's residents. "There is a lot of damage from noise because of the transport changes," he says, "The municipality has a strategy of reducing the transport entering the city but what about those living in the city and their cars? They haven't provided us with a solution here? The number of tickets given over the past month is much higher, even though we were promised there would be a transition period and that people would get warnings and not tickets."
He adds that the change in the streets mainly benefit businesses. "The space left by the cars has been quickly filled by businesses that put out tables, mainly on Thursdays and Fridays. The municipality calls it a pedestrian mall but it's not really a pleasant place to walk around.
"Already three years ago, we suggested closing the neighborhood in a measured and not complete way, at certain times and in certain places. The municipality has created a hermetically sealed or almost hermetically closed neighborhood. This creates a new chaos. We met with people at the municipality roughly one week before the plan was finalized. We had one or two tours but it wasn't something that they were going to rethink. They gave us two very similar alternatives with minor changes and there was no strategic thinking with the residents.
"We were promised that this would be a flexible plan and that we could meet with the municipality and make amendments as it developed. We sent a letter to Meital Lehavi and she said that in principle she was prepared to meet with us but meanwhile no meeting has been set up. Since it was implemented there has been no dialogue with the residents. When they wanted to present the plan to us, they did so very quickly but now they take their time. There are always excuses - holidays, collection vacations.
He added, "Today when you tell me Dutch style pedestrian mall, I am much more suspicious that I was previously. Tel Aviv is not Amsterdam and both the planning and implementation are not Amsterdam or Barcelona."
Municipal response - "An important step in giving priority to pedestrians."
Tel Aviv - Yafo Municipality said, "Converting streets into pedestrian malls and blocking entry to vehicles are an important step, which the municipality is leading in order to give priority to pedestrians and two-wheeled users (bikes and electric scooters) over cars. The move has gone ahead after a long and comprehensive process undertaken over long months together with business owners and the neighborhoods' residents, as part of which professional tours were carried out in order to understand the needs and alternative plans were presented.
"The final plan was revised according to comments from residents and it places an emphasis on protecting access for emergency vehicles, letting vehicles in for personal parking spaces in the neighborhood and adding parking for bicycles and scooters. Despite what is being claimed, municipal organizations are in contact with the residents, and if there are differences of opinion they are being examined. This is precedent-setting and revolutionary for the benefit of the neighborhood's residents, increases safety for pedestrians and riders, reduces noise pollution and improves air quality and strengthens the community fabric and local businesses.
"Municipal organizations are in touch with the residents. As part of the measure permits will be arranged for the tables and chairs of businesses, in order to create the right balance between the lives of residents and the success of the neighborhood's businesses. In any event the municipality is proactively enforcing noise nuisances there, when music is heard outside businesses during rest hours. It is important to point out that only a few complaints have been received on the issue and all have been dealt with in real time. Regarding parking enforcement, illegal parking has never been allowed and the municipality enforces the law when cars are parked, which violate the terms of local signs.
Meital Lehavi's office commented on Lior Kay Avishai's comments. "He should sent to us a list of subjects for the meeting in an organized way so that we can provide appropriate professional answers and solutions, if required. In addition, he has been informed that a meeting will be set after the holidays, as many of the municipality's staff are currently on vacation."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on September 27, 2021
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