Yom Kippur: Taking to Israel's open roads on bicycles

Published date04 October 2022
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
After a few minutes, the only one among them without an electronic device stood up and yelled at his friends, exasperated, "Atem mevazbezim et Yom Kippur!" – You're wasting Yom Kippur

It was a little bit funny, but he had a good point. They could play video games any time, but how often did they have the opportunity to ride their bikes wherever they wanted? Yom Kippur in Israel may be the one day of the year, in the only place in the world, where it's safe to play on major public roads without having to worry about vehicular traffic.

Yom Kippur: Israel's bike riding holiday

Though driving cars is technically still legal, whether out of religious observance or respect for the tone of the holiday, nearly all Israelis abstain from driving on Yom Kippur unless it's an emergency.

Even then, calling for an ambulance or police escort is generally considered the most respectful way to get to one's destination, not to mention the safest. It's actually more dangerous to drive a car or motorcycle than it is to walk on the highways on Yom Kippur, as the empty roads become a makeshift playground for children and families who walk and ride along them.

Yom Kippur riders mostly consist of children, though the practice seems to be increasing in popularity among secular adults as well. A 2018 study by the Jewish People Policy Institute determined that 43% of Israeli children ride bikes on Yom Kippur compared with only 7% of Israeli adults, though they estimate that these figures may rise in the future.

Despite the growing popularity of riding bikes on Yom Kippur, the tradition doesn't seem to affect business for local bike shops, at least not in Tel Aviv. Itzik Primo, the owner of Primo Bikes near Dizengoff Center, said that he doesn't see an increase in business leading up to Yom Kippur. He attributed this to the fact that bike riding is already such a large part of daily life for many of the city's residents.

Rental shops do tend to receive an uptick in business and offer special flat rates for Yom Kippur, as opposed to their usual standard hourly and daily rates. At O-Fun, a rental and repair shop on Ben Yehuda, riders can rent bikes for three days for 300 NIS over the holiday.

WHAT, EXACTLY, is the appeal to riding bikes on Yom Kippur? Ella, a Tel Aviv resident who purchased her bike from Primo, shares that she "rides everywhere that I possibly can on my bike."

"But I always look forward to riding on Yom Kippur, because it's a completely different atmosphere in the...

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