Carlton ReidLast modified on Sat 5 May 2018 08.55 BST
Billionaire bike-lover Sylvan Adams has a dream to get Israel cycling – he funded the Middle East’s first velodrome, gave car-centric Tel Aviv a cycle network, and is behind the country’s first Grand Tour. But will it work?
While some wealthy benefactors to Israel choose to plant forests, build scenic promenades or put their names on hospitals, Sylvan Adams loves cycling so much he seed-funded some cycleways to help transform Tel Aviv into the “Amsterdam of the Middle East”.
The Canadian real-estate billionaire also supplied cash to build a new velodrome – the first in the Middle East – and created a professional Israeli cycling team. He also stumped up some of the £9m fee for staging the first three stages of the 101st Giro d’Italia in Israel, which kicked off yesterday.
But will bringing a Grand Tour to Israel get people on bikes?
“It’s just one of the ways to increase cycling awareness in Israel,” said the 59-year-old Adams, who was once one of the top masters road and track cyclists in the world, and emigrated from Canada to Israel two years ago. Infrastructure will also be key, he agrees. He has been working through the Jewish National Fund to expand Tel Aviv’s bike lanes.
The Sylvan Adams Cycling Network is not as dense as a typical Dutch network, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, said Adams.
“Tel Aviv has historically been a car-centred city, but it suffers from traffic congestion and there’s nowhere to park, just like many other large cities. Cycling is one of the solutions. In the 1950’s, Amsterdam was a car-centred city, until civic officials decided to invest heavily in cycling infrastructure and create a bicycle friendly road network. We plan to do the same in Israel’s metropolis of Tel Aviv.”