Judaism’s holiest day, Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, is a somber occasion marked with prayer, fasting, reflection and repentance. The entire nation of Israel shuts down. Although 75% of the population of Israel are Jewish, with a significant number of those non-observant, the residents of Israel almost universally avoid driving on Yom Kippur.
The result: on this day, Israeli highways become a biking paradise.
Over the last few decades, bicycle-riding and inline skating on the empty streets have become common among secular Israeli youngsters, especially on the eve of Yom Kippur. From The Times of Israel:
For some environmentalists in Israel, though, the day has become the opposite of affliction. They call it “Kippurtopia.”
“I don’t mean it in a secular, I-don’t fast-and-I-ride-my-bike-all-day kind of way,” said Dr. Daniel Mishori, a lecturer in environmental ethics at Tel Aviv University who coined the phrase along with his fellow faster and bike enthusiast Daniel Robinson. “It is a special day, one of personal introspection and a secular vision of public space.”
Every Yom Kippur, on a voluntary basis, more than 99 percent of all Israeli Jews refrain from driving. The corresponding statistic, quoted each year on the day after Yom Kippur, is the precipitous drop in air pollution. A 2011 Environmental Defense Ministry report states that the normally high level of air pollution in the Dan region “disappears almost entirely” every Yom Kippur.
Even in secular Tel Aviv, the bicycle reigns supreme on the Day of Atonement. Each year, paramedics treat thousands of bicycle-related injuries on Yom Kippur.