September 25, 2013

Sovev Turki Without A Skinned Knee

I finally had a chance to bike down the Ayalon Expressway. 

Recently I blogged about Yom Ofanaim, the secular Israeli version 
of Yom Kippur, when riders take advantage 
of the traffic-free roads. Today was the fourth annual Sovev Turki, the Tour de Tel Aviv.

The ride took us along the sparkling seaside and into the outskirts of Old Jaffa, then we hit the wide open lanes of the Ayalon Expressway. Riders had a choice of three routes with a few stipulations. Of course, these were all broken. For example, the 43-km. ride was for ages 16 and above,  24 kilometers was for people aged 12 and older and the 9-kilometer route was for anyone and everyone.  

We chose the 43-km route and took our 14-year-old son with us. I was so nervous about breaking this rule, I asked him to disguise himself by wearing dark glasses. Indignant, he said no. And of course, when I got to the starting line, I was with a multitude of small children raring to bike the longest route. I also saw people without helmets (against race rules) and people without the event bib pinned to them (against race rules).

It was a free-for-all bicycle balagan where all cycling rules of conduct were broken. There were so many participants, the event was filled with wipe outs as eager cyclists tried to weave in and out, cutting riders off. The kids swerved, people rode while talking on their cell phones, while others pedaled with music blaring in their headphones. 

I saw shaky riders shooting video, cyclists who just stopped in the middle of the road and pedestrians who took their lives (and ours) in their hands and dashed into the melee. I clenched my handle bars, grit my teeth and had my fingers on the brakes at all times, simply hoping I could stay in one piece.

It was called a bike tour, but online skaters came out, joggers ran along the highway, while an occasional rider rode in the opposing direction. There were unicycles, electric bikes, tandem bikes and triple tandem bikes. I was noting that at least there were no sheep as I had seen in the Jerusalem Marathon, but stand zoologically corrected as my son spotted a few donkeys meandering through central Tel Aviv.  I pedaled and I dreamed of a future day when cities would be blissfully car free, silent and clean, filled with the gentle whirring of wheels and tinkling ca-ching of bicycle bells.

Security was tight as one would imagine. Motorcycles whipped by with police clutching M16s.  Security stood atop every bridge and along each corner. They may have been more concerned about Israeli cars whipping into the sealed-off bike lanes than terror threats, but who knows.

It has been a hard week here as we lost two young soldiers in the past few days. It weighs heavy on us all. Last week, after the brutal death of young 20-year-old Tomer, I saw the mayor Bat Yam comment on TV , saying “Hachayim mamshichim.” Life continues. At the moment, I felt this was a bit insensitive, but I wonder whether life’s fragility and the insecure ‘matzav’ (situation) we face every day simply compels Israelis to get out, pedal, live and celebrate life. 

At one point on the course, all three rides met and I found myself pedaling alongside chubby three year olds who could barely walk, let alone ride in a straight line. And suddenly, there was a turn. A cautious car lane changer, I am a super wary bike lane changer, so I decided to take the path of least resistance and go straight where I missed the finish line, veering smack into what appeared to be a bicycle bumper obstacle course of preschoolers. 

My husband discovered my error before I had, locating my coordinates on his iphone. Nerves shattered, and tired from waking up at 5 am that morning, then biking more than my 43-km share, I was more than happy to leave the course and cut back through the city streets, relieved to finally get off my bike without a skinned knee.  

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