It’s a sweet 16 for the Tel Aviv Rollers, the city’s loosely confederated group of rollerblading and roller-skating enthusiasts who take to city streets every Tuesday evening. No one will deck out in formal attire or rent an expensive hotel ballroom for the celebratory milestone, but the group’s leader, Alik Mintz, is definitely pleased with the accomplishment. “We’re very proud to be celebrating 16 years,” Mintz tells ISRAEL21c. “We didn’t think about reaching 16, but looking back, it’s been great.”
The Tel Aviv Rollers is a core group of 150 sports and environmental enthusiasts who gather every week for a roll around Tel Aviv. “Tel Aviv has great weather, it’s relatively flat, the size of the city is feasible for great routes that can cover the whole city, and it’s a lively city,” Mintz says. “Altogether it’s a perfect place for rollers.”
Like the city’s residents, the Rollers come from every walk of life. Some prefer to wear barely anything, others prefer to cover up. There are those with safety gear and helmets and others who take the chance without. You’ll also find whistle-necklaces, glow-in-the-dark flashing lights and a smile on every face.
When the Rollers take to the streets en masse, police close intersections and road lanes for safe passage. But as Mintz explains, it’s done in a very precise way so as to keep the “non-stop city” moving.
“When we do our route, we have the authority to close the street exactly where the group is. So, within a couple of minutes a location is closed for a short time and then reopened. We don’t put up fences or set up a police patrol all night at all the points in the city. We just go and block in a moving order. It’s very effective,” he says, adding that the municipality and police have been very cooperative.
Like other meetups in the world, the Rollers of Tel Aviv are also on a mission to show the city’s residents that transportation does not have to be gas-propelled. In the last few years, the municipality has renovated city streets to include some 70 kilometers of marked bike lanes.
Mintz wants more. “I have a vision to try and take care of pollution, well-being and climate-change problems,” says Mintz, who works as a computer systems designer by day.
“I have a vision that the Tel Aviv Rollers will show people that transportation through the city should be for bikes and rollers and that the roads are not just for cars. “I would like to see this kind of traffic as legitimate for daily use. We don’t need a rollerblade lane; we can use the bike lanes. I’m working hard and for a long time in order to have more lanes. Slowly, slowly the municipality gets this theme and they’re working with me to minimize traffic. We’re about to have a great effect.”