Tel-Aviv is a tiny, ultra-dense city (at least the part of it you’d want to visit is – not counting the sprawling ‘gush dan‘ suburbs). About 8km long (from Jaffa to the Yarkon River) and 2km wide (from the sea to the Ayalon Highway) it’s plagued by the twin hells of terrible traffic (about 500,000 cars commute into the city every day) and scant public transport. No wonder locals try and find ways to live a car-free existence.
Bike lanes have proliferated in the past few years (along with the lurid neon-green Tel-O-Fun rental bikes), usually divvying up the boulevards between two legs and two wheels. Cycling is fine in the winter, but in the summer, with temperatures hovering around 35C (95F) and humidity in the mid 80%s, it’s not exactly pleasant. So intrepid Tel-Avivians have searched for another, less exerting, form of transportation that maintains all the convenience of the bike without the exertion.
Enter the “corkinet”.
I have no idea why it’s called that, when all it is, in essence, is one of those kiddie-scooters with an electric motor on the back. Technically, they’re not legal, but as any true Israeli will argue (at length), they’re not illegal, and that’s what matters. You can’t import them, but you can import the parts and assemble them here. It’s a truly competitive market, with at least four bona-fide manufacturers spread throughout the city.
Although you’re not (technically) allowed to ride them on the pavements, or (technically) on the bike-lanes, or (technically) on the street, that makes it a free-for-all: basically you can do what you want and the police just turn a blind eye.
I must admit, at the beginning I was saddled with the typical Londoner snobbishness. I had to fight to hold the Lazy bastard! in whenever I huffed and puffed in the sweltering heat only to be overtaken by someone looking effortlessly cool, straddling their corkinet as if they were surfing. But when an orthopaedic medical issue (don’t worry – soon to be repaired) fucked up my mobility and meant I could not longer cycle, on my wife’s orders I grudgingly made my way to Gan Hachashmal’s Trekker ( the closest dealer) and walked out with a white board suspended between two tiny wheels.
And you know what? Perhaps I could have been a bit wrong. Just a little bit.
My corkinet is immense fun. It is also economical to run, cheap to buy, and quite simply the fastest mode of transport there is. In such a compact city, with a top speed of 25kmph and a range of about 20km on a full charge, it just makes so much sense and is proving to be pretty much the perfect method of urban transportation. And I can even convince myself I look young and cool (though I know I don’t).
People have taken to accessorising them with seats, baby-chairs (I’ve seen a dad, two kids and a baby squeezed on one) and all kinds of baskets, bags and surf-board holders. Me? I just kept mine simple: a few decals and a bag for the lock.
Now if only I could convince The Wife to let me put The Baby on the back…