This never happened in Scotland!

On a recent bike ride – passing through the wilds of Herzliya – a couple of riders passing us in the opposite direction, took time to give us a warning message. Potholes? No. Broken traffic lights? No. Snake? Yep.

It would be fair to say that we cycled somewhat tentatively through that part of the ride… Thankfully, we never saw the snake. But I am going to see about beefing up our first aid kit, just in case.

Always take the music with you

The item pictured above is an UE ROLL Ultraportable Bluetooth Speaker. It’s waterproof, shockproof, and delivers excellent quality sound when connected to a smartphone. Susan bought one from the duty free at Heathrow on our trip last month to the UK.

Last week, Susan and I did a bike ride to the Tel Aviv namal and back. Susan decided that she wanted to have her music with her, so she charged up the device, and stuck it in her backpack. Controlling the sound from her handlebar mounted iPhone, she was able to achieve what she wanted. While some of the music wasn’t to my taste, there was some that caught the mood exactly. For example, we found ourselves singing Queen‘s Bohemian Rhapsody as we cycled over the bridge at Herzliya Railway Station. There were a couple of other pop classics that we murdered, too! It was great fun. And, as continuing proof of the power of music, it gave an extra boost to our cycling performance.

Susan has used the device quite a bit, and is very satisfied with it. Since her hearing is much better than mine, and she says the sound is good, that’s a decent piece of praise. Worth checking out that piece of kit if you are in the market for a Bluetooth speaker. Incidentally, the guy at Dixons at Heathrow tried to convince Susan to buy the cheaper model. But, this one was the Which? recommendation, and Susan stuck to her guns. My bet is that Dixons have too much stock of the cheaper one.

Earthquake about to hit Tel Aviv

Not a real one, of course. But this has the potential to be devastating:

Bicyclists to be fined for riding on Tel Aviv sidewalks

Cyclists will be fined up to NIS 1,000 for more severe violations starting May 1.

The Tel Aviv municipality today [17 April 2016] announced that starting on May 1, Israel Police will begin enforcing the law banning bicycle riding on sidewalks.

Tel Aviv is swarming with bikes – electric and standard. And while there is some bike path infrastructure, most bikes are ridden on the pavement. Unfortunately, many bikes – especially electric bikes – are ridden in a manner that is dangerous to pedestrians, as well as the riders. It is a plague. This action is long overdue.

As Globes’ report continues:

Before enforcement begins, the Tel Aviv municipality, the police, and the National Road Safety Authority will conduct a major public relations campaign, to begin this Sunday. The campaign will include billboards, a video clip, and green graffiti on sidewalks. During campaigns, explanations will be given by policemen, municipal inspector, and stewards, who will distribute information sheets about proper riding and enforcement measures to bicycle riders and pedestrians.

When enforcement begins after the Passover holiday, policemen will begin enforcing the law against riders of bicycles and electric bicycles riding on sidewalks instead of on marked bicycle paths. Enforcement measures will also be taken against severe violations, for which the fine will vary from NIS 100 to NIS 1,000, including going through a red light, riding in the wrong direction, using a mobile phone while riding, and disturbing pedestrians in crosswalks.

Punitive measures will include fines, taking the air out of bicycle tires, and confiscation of batteries (for children under 16 illegally riding electric bicycles).

I just wish they would do the same in Ra’anana. The plague of electric bikes is terrible. And Pesach seems like a good time to sort out a plague!

Cyclists’ lament

The view towards Tel Aviv port, from the northern bike path - March 2016

The view towards Tel Aviv port, from the northern bike path – March 2016

It’s Thursday afternoon. I cycle from our home, aiming for the port at Tel Aviv. The wind is blowing in my face.

I reach the port. I turn around, and head home. The wind is blowing in my face. How is that possible? What’s worse is that it is much stronger, and the return journey is painfully slow. So slow. Why does this happen? Grrrrr.

Yep, it’s the cyclists’ lament.

Biking season

Source: Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

The front gears on my bike have been acting up. I know enough to make an attempt at repairs, but whatever I was doing wasn’t working. So, (because what else do you do on Tzom Gedalia?) after work I rode my bike to the bike shop.

I had a suspicion it would be busy, but did not appreciate how busy. It was mobbed. The forecourt was jammed with new bikes – it looked like they had taken delivery of a batch of 50 or so. And there were a couple of tall towers of stacked bike boxes waiting to be opened. The place was also busy with customers.

To cut a long story short, they were too busy to do the repair and had no space to store my bike, and I will need to go back again. Why so busy? It’s about to be the peak of the biking season – Yom Kippur…

Because over 90% of Israelis do not drive on Yom Kippur (some sources say it is 99%) the roads are emptier than at any other time. On the night of Yom Kippur particularly, Israeli kids (and adults) celebrate by riding on the road. Both sides. Both directions. I never said the roads were safer than at any other time…

So that’s why the bike shop was so busy. It’s the biking season!

Secret ingredient for a safer bike helmet – paper

From the BBC:

The basic idea behind cycle helmets is to create a mini crumple zone – a bit like you’d find in a car – that absorbs some of the energy and gives your skull and brain more time to slow down before coming to a stop.

Those extra few milliseconds can reduce the amount of compression in the brain and potentially make the difference between brain damage and a mild case of concussion.

At the moment, the material used to protect us in a crash is polystyrene.


…Anirudha [the inventor] turned to a cheap and easily accessible source – paper.

He engineered it into a double-layer of honeycomb that could then be cut and constructed into a functioning helmet.

“What you end up with is with tiny little airbags throughout the helmet,” he says.

“So when you have a crash, what these airbags do is they go pop, pop, pop, pop, pop – and they go all the way to the bottom, without the helmet cracking. That’s what absorbs the energy. ”

The paper design has been tested to European standards, and when compared to a standard polystyrene helmet, the results are impressive.

“If you crash at 15 miles per hour in a normal helmet, your head will be subjected to around 220G [G-force], whereas the new design absorbs more of the impact and means you experience around 70G instead,” says Surabhi.

To put that into context, international safety standards recognise that to avoid serious brain damage, a person must not be exposed to impact forces above 300G.

This means that while a polystyrene helmet helps you to avoid fatal or serious head injury, the paper helmet will give your head more time to slow down and potentially lower the risk of even less serious injuries like concussion.

Fascinating. It’s a free puff for the inventor, but still interesting. Read it all, here.

Surprise sighting

I wish to confirm that early this morning (while it was still dark) making my way to work I saw a helmet wearing cyclist riding a bike with a rear light and a front light. Both lights were working. And he was cycling on the correct side of the road given his direction of travel, keeping as close as to what passed for the kerb.


I’ll let you know when I next see such a rare sight.


Political cycle


One of the side effects of having the political arena so dominated by security issues, is that sensible policies dealing with other less urgent issues tend to get pushed well to the rear. So, it was a little surprising to see this cycling story get some coverage in the Jerusalem Post:

TA: Environmentalists, Livni cycle for safety

Hundreds of activists participate in bike ride across Tel Aviv to express disappointment over stalled bills for cycling safety.

To impress upon Knesset candidates the critical importance of improved cycling infrastructure, the organization Israel for Bikes led hundreds of environmentalists on a bike ride across Tel Aviv on Friday afternoon.

Joining the cyclists were Tzipi Livni and MK Yoel Hasson, a Tzipi Livni Party candidate, as well as Green Movement head Prof. Alon Tal.

The cyclists were rallying to express their disappointment that for four years, bills aimed at increasing cycling safety have been stalled again and again, despite the fact that their creators are ministers and Knesset members from the coalition, they said.

Meanwhile, bicycle parking regulations signed by the interior minister last year were frozen, and the budget spent on developing cycling infrastructure in the Transportation Ministry has been negligible, according to Israel for Bikes.

Aside from Tel Aviv, where the portion of the municipal budget dedicated to bike-riding has allowed for the establishment of 120 kilometers of bike paths, the country as a whole is not realizing its cycling potential, the organization argued. Following Tel Aviv in second place is Herzliya, with only 17 kilometers of bike paths.

“Despite the existing understanding in various government ministries that it is necessary to encourage cycling on a daily basis – as part of a healthy lifestyle and for quality of life, environment and increasing accessibility for the entire public – and despite the alleged commitment to work to increase riding safety, the investment on this subject has been negligible,” said Israel for Bikes CEO Yotam Avizohar.

Israel for Bikes members and other environmental activists are demanding that Knesset candidates commit themselves to an existing bill that encourages bicycle transportation going forward, promotes bike path construction in cities and institutes economic incentives for cycling to work, the organization said.

This bill was passed in its first reading in 2008 but has since been blocked again and again, according to the group.

Members of the small Greens party got on their bikes on Friday as well, as part of a campaign to increase public involvement in controlling the quality of the air they breathe.

“This trip is designed to protest the lack of a proper budget and worthy plan for bike paths throughout the country,” Livni said. “Bicycles are an alternative to cars and to polluting transportation, and contribute to the environment.”

Livni and her party colleagues promised that the cyclists would have her support, and that she would promote a target of 10 percent bicycle usage for daily travel to work.

“It’s time that the state takes more responsibility for promoting the subject and defines clear objectives for the advancement of bike transportation in Israel, while expanding the budget devoted to the subject,” Tal said

From a personal perspective, I want these cycling initiatives to succeed. For example, I would like to bike to work, but Susan has vetoed this on the grounds it is too dangerous. If there were a separate cycle track, however, it would be much safer. But it’s not so important an issue that it’s going to change who I am going to vote for. So, sorry Tzipi, I’m still not voting for you.

Cycle of language

From the Economist (October 20th 2012):

Nike terminated its contract with Lance Armstrong because of the “seemingly insurmountable evidence” that the former cycling champion participated in doping and had “misled” the sportswear company. Nike’s decision comes after a recent damning report from the US Anti-Doping Agency that marked out Mr Armstrong as a “serial cheat” for taking performance-enhancing drugs and for peddling influence with his teammates to do the same.


The thinking cyclist

Here’s a great comment from the Economist‘s online site, discussing an article – Vive La Revolution – about the renaissance of cycling in America:

Cycle of life. As hundreds of millions of Indians and Chinese aspire to get off bicycles onto some motorized mode of transport, their richer counterparts in Western nations somehow feel the urge to go in the other direction.

The article is here (though the paywall might keep you out).