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Jerusalem - Bike Sharing Scheme Coming To Jerusalem But Shabbat War Looms

Published on: August 31, 2015 08:32 PM
By: Jerusalem Post
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Jerusalem - It seems that no self-respecting major city these days can hold their head up in polite society without a bicycle share system.
London, Paris, New York, Copenhagen and Tel Aviv have developed such systems in recent years, and now Jerusalem, capital of Israel and holy city to the three major monotheistic religions, wants to get in on the pedal-powered action too.
To this end, the Yerushalmim party has begun the process of investigating and exploring the options for establishing a bike sharing scheme in Jerusalem and the party believes it will be possible to install the system by the end of 2016.
As with many things in Jerusalem, the new initiative has created the possibility of a Shabbat war between the Haredi and non-Haredi political factions in the Jerusalem Municipal Council.
Whether or not riding a bicycle on the Sabbath is prohibited by Jewish law has been the subject of debate, although must rabbinic authorities have ruled that it is not permissible.
The proposed Jerusalem bike scheme will also likely be a “smart” system, operated electronically, possibly through the existing Rav Kav smart ride card, the use of which would most probably be prohibited on Shabbat.
Representatives of the United Torah Judaism party on the council spoke out strongly on Monday against the possible operation of the bikes on Shabbat, saying that it would be a mass desecration of the Sabbath.
The Yerushalmim party, headed by Tamir Nir, along with other municipal factions are insisting however that the bike sharing scheme be operated on Shabbat to allow tourists and residents to take advantage of the system.
Nir said however that the stations which would be set up in Haredi neighborhoods would not be operated on the Sabbath.
The proposed bike system would initially consist of 500 bicycles and approximately 50 pick-up and drop-off stations, mainly in the city center, with stations at light rail stops and also in areas not served well by public transportation.
It is thought the project will cost approximately NIS 10 million to establish and another NIS 1.5 million to service and maintain every year.
A large part of the cost for creating the system would be paid for by the Transport Ministry, while it is hoped that the bike sharing scheme would pay for itself.
Subscriber systems would be put in place for regular users, but it is hoped that the one-off users will provide the biggest income revenue, whether it is tourists or other similar riders.
If the system is successfully established, a future second stage could see it rolled out to other parts of the city, including up to the city’s universities, the Knesset and other locales.
“In Europe many cities are trying to establish their bike sharing schemes as one of the three major systems of transport, along with private vehicles and public transport,” Nir told The Jerusalem Post.
“These bicycle projects mean that there are less car collisions, less vehicular traffic, and less pollution, meaning an increase in quality of life in the city.
“It is also an important factor for tourism and is a great way for tourists to get around the city, especially bearing in mind the mayor’s goal of getting five million tourists a year here.”
Nir said it was important that the system be able to pay for itself and claimed that it would not be financially viable if it were not operated on Shabbat.
Nir also noted that Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has given Yerushalmim his support to begin the project and said he expected him to support its operation on Shabbat.
“We will fight against it determinedly for the bicycles to be available on Shabbat, and the demand that it not be available is outrageous. If the mayor wants to be with the pluralist community then he needs to be in favor of this project and vote in favor of it.
“The non-Haredi community does not tell the Haredi public how it should behave on Shabbat and we will not be told how what we can and cannot do either,” said Nir.
Deputy Mayor Yisrael Kellerman of United Torah Judaism told the Post that the party would seek the advice of the leading rabbis as to whether using the bikes would be prohibited on Shabbat and whether or not the Haredi political factions would oppose the initiative.
He said however that UTJ was in favor of the project in general, but that having it operate on Shabbat was not acceptable.
“If the municipality is a partner in this project then it cannot be open on Shabbat, and there cannot be any profit making on the sabbath,” he told the Post. “Shabbat in Jerusalem is observed, that is our position, it is the status quo and I do not think that the mayor will support it being operated on Shabbat.”



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Read Comments (6)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Aug 31, 2015 at 09:18 PM I don't get it Says:

All the other cities that the article lists as having bicycle programs are basically flat and have a pre-existing bicycle culture. When I lived in Jerusalem (admittedly it has been a while), there was no bicycle culture (eg in the entire city, there was only one bike shop, just west of the shuk), and the terrain we all know.

What casual tourist or commuter is going to want to deal with the Jerusalem hills and traffic? The article says the initial 50 stations would be concentrated in the city center, but that area is so small, I don't know how they would fit 50 stations in that space, and a person would be better off just walking.

I would like to hear details of the plan, and what they are expecting.

2

 Aug 31, 2015 at 09:24 PM lmfao Says:

I'm not a posek but I heard that technically there is no isur on driving a bike on shabbos it might be a good idea to find some heter on paying with a card for the bike on shabbos and like that there will be yiden that won't drive on shabbos their cars

3

 Aug 31, 2015 at 10:31 PM BikeYid Says:

A biking system will actually decrease the amount of chilul Shabbos. Assuming that biking is at most only a Rabbinical sin, it will stop Non frum yidden from using cars on Shabbos which is a Torah violation, since they have a different mode of transportation available. Even if only a few Yidden choose this option over the use of cars there is a gain of less Chilul shabbos.

4

 Aug 31, 2015 at 10:35 PM Realistically Says:

Even with the use of card readers, bicycle sharing might involve significantly less chillul Shabbat than driving an auto, if it would move people from cars onto bicycles.

5

 Aug 31, 2015 at 11:21 PM Nycnyc Says:

It will never happen. Tourists will not be able to drive bikes in religious areas which is one third of the city. The other third is Arabs and no tourist will feel to safe and the modern orthodox and secular areas are hardly tourist attractions. The traffic in israel with busses flying in narrow streets is going to be very dangerous to bikers all week. There is hardly room for cars so where would the bikes drive. It's as stupid as the trolleys they built.

6

 Sep 01, 2015 at 02:19 PM Anonymous Says:

Maybe if these rabbonim were to get out from behind their shtenders and actually get on a bike a ride around the city they would have a more realistic view of the benefits afforded to the Chareidi population, most of who cannot afford to own and operate cars (putting aside the question of chilul Shabbos). Yes, some of the so called "torah sages" the politicians hide behind for advice are geriatric and cannot ride bikes but most are certainly able if they simply were open to innovation.

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