In May, 2011 a new bike rental service called «Tel-O-Fun» was established by the Municipality of Tel-Aviv-Jaffa. You can’t help noticing brand new green bicycles lined up in 10 or 12 along the promenade in Tel-Aviv. There are a few rental terminals in town as well. Cute greenish bicycles have a back metal baby sit which seems uncomfortable at the first site are available for rent all over the city.
Next to the bicycles we found a terminal with a touch screen displaying some options for using the service in English and Hebrew. In spite of a good command of English we failed renting vehicles and thought it was either stupid or not user-friendly.
None of the above.
We went to the nearby café to log in to Internet and check some information online http://www.tel-o-fun.co.il/en/, there was nothing new to us, but for a promising video. It appeared to be useless too. The website suggested to sign up, but we had no time for that and did not see how it could help at that moment. We would not give up and set our goal to find other Tel-O-Fun stations and try it there.
The idea looked pretty simple: a tourist walking by without a cellphone or any other 3G gadget takes a bike for rent. But it did not work. Why?
We were really upset missing the opportunity to use this easy, nature friendly and inexpensive form of transportation in Tel-Aviv. We turned to Ben-Gurion Boulevard until Rehov Dizengoff where we spotted two cyclists, one of them was riding that very green Tel-O-Fun bike.
We stopped the guys to find what we had been doing wrong. We were told that you needed to go to the Municipality to register there and use the service afterwards. It sounded bizarre from the point of view of a tourist to go to the local authorities, but we went straight there. The municipality building is located in the square named after Yitzhak Rabin. From Dizengoff we went up till Ibn Gvirol and to the right to Rabin Square. The Municipality is next to a huge Mall. You won’t miss it. And besides, there are many young people of both sex wearing the army uniform who will definitely attract your attention. We were carefully searched at the entrance, but the guards were very friendly. Next, you go up by the escalator, take a queue number from the automatic machine and wait your turn. Our manager explained to us that this fantastic service is unfortunately not available for tourists at the moment. The municipality of Tel-Aviv invested into the project which enables both locals and tourists to use environment friendly transport, enjoy the sights of the city and make your stay more comfortable and fun. As this service is a recent thing they decided to test it on long-term customers first. So, if you have a credit card from one of the local banks and your stay is not limited to two weeks, you qualify.
This Summer Tel-O-Fun offers bicycles with a year plan only and it will have a day, week, month and even a half an hour offers later. If you stay in Tel-Aviv for a year or so and have a local bank account you need to have a personal account on http://www.tel-o-fun.co.il/en/, purchase the annual plan and claim the electronic key which you will use to unlock your bike at the station as well as to return it back. If you do not want to wait until the key arrives by mail, go to the municipality in person and register over there. You will be issued your electronic key on spot. When the day, week and month plans are available you will be issued a paper slip with a bar code on it which will have the same function as the electronic key. Today the annual Tel-O-Fun contract costs 240 NIS and you have a free month as a bonus plus a discount of 40NIS. In future you will be able to rent bicycles for an hour and the first 30 minutes will be free, the first hour will cost you 5 NIS, an hour and a half – 10 NIS, two hours and a half – 20 NIS, three and a half hours – 40 NIS, etc. So, if you have a year plan and ride a bicycle for one hour once, your costs will be 245 NIS, an hour and a half – 250 NIS, etc. Foreign customers will be able to use this awesome service in Winter 2011 or Spring 2012 after this project is well tested on long-term customers. I would also recommend purchasing a good lock if you are going to leave your bike next to the café, school or a supermarket. Do not forget to look through the instructions and rules which are offered to you with the plan. You can always park your bike at any parking of Tel-O-Fun.
I wonder how it is going to work on Shabbat. The idea is to avoid using any electronic devices above others. Despite the fact that not many people strictly follow this, plan your trip beforehand and mind that public busses and trains do not operate from the city to the airport and back from Friday evening till Saturday evening.
It is absolutely cool to have such a service with many benefits in the city. But it’s a shame tourists have to wait so long to enjoy it. I saw a lot of people interested in the service and clicking on the screen looking for any reasonable explanation why it is not working. It is there since Spring 2011 and those who have some to Israel for an ordinary vacation or spent a couple of days here did not make use of this offer.
I am judging from the customer’s point of view. And customers do not like to wait. On the other hand, customers appreciate security and if this time is needed for checking security, we are happy to wait. A bit of explanation or an article in the Time Out, Herald Tribune, on the screen of the terminal or at least on the website would be great too.
While waiting I would like to offer the developers to take into consideration the owners of iPhones and Androids as it would be awesome receive the electronic bar code on mobiles in stead of issuing a physical electronic key or a slip which are easy to get lost or damaged.
I do not know how about you, guys, but I am going to come here in Winter again and enjoy riding in Tel-Aviv since the streets are paved perfectly and the weather is generally good all year round. See you there.