Israel’s Ministerial Committee on the Economy and Society has approved a five-year, 100 million shekel-plus plan to promote the country’s cycling industry, presented by Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov. The plan was developed in response to the March 2008 government decision to promote local cycling.

The ministerial committee, headed by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, yesterday agreed to the development of the physical infrastructure for a comprehensive and accessible network of cycling paths the length and breadth of the country that will connect population centers with open areas, a range of landscapes and leading places of interest.

Partners in the plan include KKL-JNF, the Cycling Association, the Nature and Parks Authority, and others. The goal is to develop infrastructure for more than 3,000 miles of varied cycling paths and accompanying facilities, as well as educational, community and promotional activities. The new cycling paths will join the existing 373 miles of trails and about 870 miles of paths.

Misezhnikov says that the development of a national cycling infrastructure, about 80 percent of which will be located in the Negev and the Galilee, will create jobs and contribute to tourism. In March, Israel held its first ‘Tour de Israel’ cycling competition, attracting 124 participants, including 44 foreigners.

International cycling tourism is a billion dollar market, with high growth potential. About 19 million cycling tourists visit Europe every year, staying in 30,000 lodgings.