At the Rethinking Israeli Streets conference at Tel Aviv University (TAU), scholars such as Marc Schlossberg discussed plans to redesign Israeli streets and public transportation systems, addressing the numerous traffic issues that are congesting Israel’s cities.
Marc Schlossberg, an American Fulbright scholar and a professor of city and regional planning at the University of Oregon, opened the conference. It was co-sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Transportation, the TAU Porter School of Environmental Studies, the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology, and the United States-Israel Educational Foundation.
In the past, the Israeli government has not considered transportation when building new infrastructure. As a result most of Israel can only be traveled by private car. Cities’ roads have become extremely crowded, especially during rush hour, and people are unable to travel extensively through the country. Schlossberg hopes to redesign Israeli streets and cities to better serve pedestrians and encourage biking and other more sustainable, more convenient modes of transportation.
Schlossberg exemplified Europe, particularly Denmark, as a positive, environmentally friendly model. In these places, young people are rejecting the car culture of their parents and grandparents and even men in suits are seen biking and walking to work. Schlossberg believes the same can happen in Israel’s near future.
Electric bikes and the continued promotion of a new rental bike system will urge Israelis towards environmental consciousness. However, Schlossberg also noted that Israel’s changes will take time, as Israel reconstructs roads to accommodate bike and pedestrian lanes.
While many other cities across the world have been facing the same problems as Israel, Israel is one of a few that is actively seeking to rectify its traffic crisis. These initiatives have economic benefits. When Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities redesign their streets and transportation, it is likely that the city will attract new infrastructure and companies to the country. These companies will relocate younger and brighter people to Israel and the country has the potential to become an even more powerful economic hub in the Middle East and Africa.