Begin Road in Tel Aviv (formerly Petah Tikva Road) is the kind of street you only go down in a vehicle. Walking along it is intolerable: the sidewalks are broken, there's no shade, and there's noise and pollution. Riding a bicycle on the side of the road, with the right-hand lane reserved for public transport, is a violent and frightening experience.
Two weeks ago the Tel Aviv Municipality local planning committee approved a "policy plan" that proposes to transform the road from "a traffic artery to an urban street", which is undeniably exciting news. The plan is by landscape architecture firm Minadd, but the project was led by deputy city engineer Orly Arel.
On the face of it, the proposed changes are technical, but in fact what is at stake is a redefinition of the hierarchy of streets in the city. If, in the past, Begin Street was part of the main route from Jaffa to Petah Tikva and Nablus, that status has long since passed to the Ayalon Highway. This means that the Jaffa Road-Begin Road-Namir Road-Coastal Highway route can, and even should, become a street. In practice, the plan calls for widening the sidewalks to a minimum width of five meters, planting avenues of trees, and constructing bicycle paths. The proposed plan will of course affect road traffic, as the number of lanes for private vehicles will be reduced. A further and no less important aspect of the plan is the formulation of guidelines for developing the interface of the buildings along the sidewalks with the street.
Architect Michal Bleicher of the Tel Aviv-Yafo engineering administration explains that the original plan for rehabilitating Begin Road was approved in 2008, and its aim was to adapt the road to the Red Line of the Tel Aviv Light Rail, which will pass underneath. That plan made no real contribution to urban development. The Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality realized that it had been presented with an opportunity, and decided to promote a comprehensive plan, even though this was not easy at that stage. "The aim was to design everything afresh, because everything has changed. The light rail was a pretext and a spur. Generally, street planning is local and specific, and here we are talking about several streets: all of Begin Road, from the junction with Arlozorov Street to the junction with Harakevet Street, including Hamasger Street as a continuation."
What then is the message? "We were trying to change an approved plan. It wasn't simple, because NTA is already working on the light rail in the area, but we requested that everything should be halted. We haven't touched anything that pertains to the light rail (stations, ventilation piers), but we defined a new order of priorities: public transport lanes, sidewalks, bicycle paths, and cars only at the end. This represents a deep conceptual change."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 26, 2017
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