Tel Aviv backtracks on sidewalk parking
29 August 2019 - globes
Tel Aviv drivers are confused. The municipality started fining cars parked on sidewalks, even if they did not obstruct pedestrians, but has now stopped the fines.
The Tel Aviv - Jaffa municipality last week decided to enforce the ban on parking on sidewalks in the evening and on weekends, even if it does not obstruct pedestrians. The decision aroused strong protest among car owners in the city, and the municipality reversed its decision yesterday. The same reversal in policy applies to parking by red and white curbsides at night, in locations that do not impede traffic flow.
Hagit Urian, who maintains a Facebook page entitled "Restoring Safety for Pedestrians" and is active on behalf of pedestrians in Tel Aviv believes that her struggle is achieving results, although she was not supportive of fining cars that were not obstructing pedestrians and says the municipality is working in a muddled way.
"The protest rally I held in June in front of the entrance to the Tel Aviv municipality building, when the City Council was in session, worked," she told "Globes," adding, "I made it clear to the municipality that they were looking like hypocrites. On the one hand, they're filling Tel Aviv with all of those shared vehicles that are making our lives a misery, while proclaiming that they are reducing the use of private vehicles. At the same time, they let people park on the sidewalk. What increases the use of cars is that the driver always has a parking place on the sidewalk. Besides residents of the city, visitors from other cities also park their cars on the sidewalk and go to the beach.
What comes next?
"Getting cars off the sidewalks is a positive step. There's no justification for vehicles to be in the pedestrians' space. It's not just the sidewalks. The sidewalk isn't a road or a parking lot. The problem is that they work in spurts. Inside of two weeks, they began fining people parking in places marked red and white who were bothering nobody. People have built their lives around certain places, and all of a sudden they want to upset their lives. The municipality's ways are mysterious. One time they say that public transportation is more important than riding bicycles, another time they say that pedestrians are the most important. I've been working with them for six years, and they change their approach every six months."
"Globes": Last Monday, the Tel Aviv municipality reversed itself by allowing parking in places marked red and white - in effect, not to enforce the law. What do you think about that?
Urian (giggling): "They change their policy all the time. You never know.
Is the lack of parking relevant only in Tel Aviv? Yossi Saidov, co-organizer of the 15 Minutes organization for promoting public transportation, says that this is not so. "The problem isn't just parking; it's the traffic jams crisis in Israel. There is a huge number of new vehicles going on the roads each year, about 250,000. We don't have infrastructure for this number of private vehicles. Road congestion here is higher than in any European Union country. There's huge population growth here, and it will only get worse.
"Whenever the local authority plans to restrict parking or car traffic for the sake of pedestrians or public transportation, the car owners protest. It's happening on Emek Refaim Street in Jerusalem and it's happening in Petah Tikva, Ra'anana, and Rishon Lezion. Car drivers won't give an inch.
"Israel trails behind Western countries in public transportation. Israel leads in one thing - the number of parking places. A private vehicle in Israel uses two parking spaces: one near home and one near work. That means 24 square meters in the heart of Israel's cities in places with the greatest demand. Why should the country give public space for free?"
But there is no alternative. What do you propose?
"It's a vicious circle. The more you stick to your car, the more you interfere with public transportation. How can you have public transportation if you can't make public transportation lanes? Car drivers don't lack excuses for not switching to public transportation."
Ofir Cohen, who manages the transportation, traffic, and parking authority in the Tel Aviv municipality, warns that the transportation situation in the city will get worse. "We devised a transportation strategy giving priority to people using sustainable means of transportation, starting with pedestrians, bicycle riders, large capacity vehicles, shared vehicles, and last of all private cars. It's clear to us that this isn't going to happen overnight. What we're doing will produce gradual and moderate results in a few years. Cars will remain the dominant means of transportation, but the intensity of the problem will diminish.
"We know that the city will undergo massive infrastructure work on many main traffic arteries within a year. We know that the map of main arteries in the city is going to change within a year. Road capacity in Tel Aviv will be cut by 25%."