Sunday, June 24, 2012

E-Bikes: Easing Commute Through Checkpoints

Did you ever try to pass from Ramallah to Jerusalem at 7:30 am? The two cities are adjacent, and their centers are a mere 14km from each other, but the commute will easily take an hour or more, because of Qalandia checkpoint, where you will be sitting in an overcrowded bus that pushes forward meter by meter. Most Palestinians are not allowed to take their car to their workplace in Jerusalem thanks to Israeli regulations.

There are a few lucky ones that have the right type of ID to get an Israeli number plate, and those with an Israeli numberplate and a scooter can bypass the terrible traffic before the checkpoint. This blog post proposes a solution for the remaining 99% -- or at least those of them who feel it acceptable (culturally and status-wise) to move their ass on two wheels.

A high-end E-bike manufactured by A2B

A "Gap" in Israeli Legislation

By not allowing Palestinians to drive or ride scooters, use airports, use borders, use some Israeli public transportation, the Israeli government makes it pretty hard for Palestinians that work in Israel or in occupied East Jerusalem to come to their workplace, or anywhere else.
Luckily, the Israeli laws that impede Palestinian mobility don't cover bicycles. And, E-bikes are likewise categorized as bikes according to Israeli law.
So with an E-bike, you could join the lucky ones that cross the Checkpoint in just 5 Minutes instead of queuing up in a mess of traffic for 45 Minutes.

The Business Model(s)

It is obvious that you could market and sell E-bikes to commuters -- advertising on the last mile between Kufar Aqab and Qalandia checkpoint is probably most effective. Since Palestinians (apart from Kids or Jericho inhabitants) seem to be culturally hesitant to move on two wheels, you will probably need to do a good campaign, possibly hiring a celebrity to act as a role model to make E-bikes culturally acceptable.

Some commuters wouldn't want to miss the convenience to drive their car as far as they can, so for those you could offer another option. Instead of riding their E-bike all the way from home to their workplace, you build a large parking place on Jerusalem Road about 2km before Qualandia checkpoint, have them park their car every morning, and rent out a fully charged and well-maintained E-bike for the rest of the commute to their workplace in Jerusalem.
Customers, after receiving a free 3-days trial period, can make a monthly or annual subscription to that service.

Bikes: Winners or Losers in Road Wars?

The driving culture in Qalandia traffic jam is not one of the nicest. Drivers tend to be in big hurry, and pretty much on the edge with their nerves. Lots of honks, and attempts to overtake each other. Not the safest environment for bike riders who lack the metal plating around them.
Mohamed Shtayeh had aquired funds in the name of PECDAR from the German government to upgrade Jerusalem Road a couple of years ago. If significant bicycle traffic is found on that road, you may be finding yet another donor funding to construct a well protected bicycle lane. Many donors like these kind of "green" projects.
Technically, narrowing Jerusalem street in favour of a bike lane wouldn't hurt the car traffic much, because the bottleneck is not Jerusalem street -- the bottleneck is Qalandia checkpoint and the roundabout and road to Al-Ram.


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