Elec­tric bikes and so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity

The death of prom­i­nent teen Avi Nesher makes lack of reg­u­la­tion hard to ig­nore

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • By OFER LIVNAT

Last year, some 288 teens be­tween the ages of 16 and 18, and 248 be­tween 12 and 15, were in­jured in Is­rael while rid­ing elec­tric bi­cy­cles. A few weeks ago, the en­tire coun­try was shocked to hear that a teenager – Ari Nesher, son of ac­claimed film di­rec­tor Avi Nesher – was crit­i­cally in­jured while rid­ing on the back of his friend’s elec­tric bi­cy­cle, and died a short time later, just one day af­ter cel­e­brat­ing his 17th birth­day. The ac­ci­dent brought to the fore­front of pub­lic dis­course the is­sue of lack of reg­u­la­tion of elec­tric bi­cy­cle rid­ing, es­pe­cially among teens. A num­ber of pro­pos­als for leg­is­la­tion, en­force­ment and reg­u­la­tion of elec­tric bi­cy­cle use have been raised by var­i­ous lay peo­ple and politi­cians.

Un­til a spe­cific pol­icy can be set, ev­ery day more ac-

cidents in­volv­ing elec­tric bi­cy­cles will con­tinue to take place. Many are not re­ported; only the most hor­rific ones make the evening news. More and more elec­tric bikes are ap­pear­ing on Is­rael’s streets and most of the rid­ers are teenagers. Un­for­tu­nately, not all of them ride their bikes sen­si­bly, wear hel­mets or have lights. Has the news of this tragic fa­tal ac­ci­dent af­fected their rid­ing habits? LIHI TARAN, an 11th grader at Tel Aviv’s Ironi Dalet High School, has been rid­ing her elec­tric bi­cy­cle for a long time. Fol­low­ing the re­cent ac­ci­dent, Taran be­gan wear­ing a hel­met ev­ery time she rides her bi­cy­cle.

“I used to ride with­out a hel­met, but af­ter hear­ing about Ari Nesher’s ac­ci­dent, I went out and bought a qual­ity hel­met. De­spite ev­ery­thing that’s hap­pened, rid­ing an elec­tric bike still has many ad­van­tages if used prop­erly. I’ve heard lots of peo­ple say that elec­tric bikes should be out­lawed al­to­gether, but if you wear a hel­met and fol­low traf­fic laws, it’s pos­si­ble to re­main safe. But as long as there are no bike paths to ride on, it will con­tinue to be dan­ger­ous. There are side­walks for pedes­tri­ans and streets for cars, but where are the cy­clists sup­posed to ride? Every­one tells us, ‘There are no bike lanes. Just find some­where to ride.’”

Are you fright­ened while you’re rid­ing your bi­cy­cle?

“Ab­so­lutely! I’d much rather ride in a bike lane, but there aren’t any, so I’m forced to ride on the street, which is an in­cred­i­bly fright­en­ing ex­pe­ri­ence – es­pe­cially when a bus passes me by. I try hard not to ride on main roads like this be­cause it’s very stress­ful, but some­times I don’t have a choice.”

Did your teach­ers talk with you at school about safety pre­cau­tions?

“Af­ter the ac­ci­dent, they brought it up a bunch of times. Two stu­dents who are friends with the boy who was in­jured in the ac­ci­dent – Ari’s friend – came to speak with us about the im­por­tance of wear­ing a hel­met. I went straight out that day af­ter school to buy a hel­met. Every­one tells them­selves, ‘It won’t ever hap­pen to me,’ but then all of a sud­den it hap­pens to some­one your age, and you re­al­ize the im­por­tance of safety.”

What do your par­ents think about you rid­ing an elec­tric bike?

“My fa­ther’s very wor­ried about me, and he’s thrilled that I bought a hel­met. If there’s space on the side­walk, I ride on the side­walk even though I might get fined, be­cause get­ting fined is much bet­ter than get­ting run over and risk­ing my life.”

N., AN 11th grader from Her­zliya, ad­mits that de­spite learn­ing about all the fa­tal ac­ci­dents, she and her

Every­one tells us, ‘There are no bike lanes. Just find some­where to ride.’

friends still don’t wear hel­mets.

“But we are be­ing much more care­ful in the way we ride and we never take a friend on the back any­more. I’m su­per scared of rid­ing on the streets, but there aren’t any bike lanes, so I don’t re­ally have a choice. It’s re­ally con­ve­nient get­ting around on an elec­tric bike.”

CHANI DAVIDI, 16, an 11th grader at Reishit-Amit High School in Tel Aviv, has been rid­ing an elec­tric bike for two years al­ready.

“It’s the eas­i­est way to get around with­out hav­ing to rely on my par­ents,” says Davidi, even though she’s al­ready had a few falls. “I’m much more care­ful now, and I’ve learned from ea­chof my falls. A po­lice­man came to our school and spoke about road safety. I used to take friends on the back of my bike all the time, but since the po­lice­man came to school and told us about all the ac­ci­dents, I don’t do that any­more. “I un­der­stand that there are kids who are re­ally crazy rid­ers, but the peo­ple driv­ing cars also need to take some re­spon­si­bil­ity. So many times when I’m rid­ing my bike a car will cut me off sud­denly with­out sig­nal­ing. It’s ab­so­lutely fright­en­ing when this hap­pens, and so I only ride on the right side of the road.”

Aren’t you afraid of be­ing in­volved in a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent?

“Peo­ple driv­ing in cars should also be wor­ried.”

LIEL MALCHEVICH, the chair- per­son of the Na­tional Stu­dent and Youth Coun­cil at the ORT Sharett High School in Up­per Nazareth, said, “In light of re­cent events and for the pur­pose of pre­vent­ing fu­ture in­ci­dents of this type, we’ve sub­mit­ted a firm ap­peal to the Tran­spor­ta­tion Min­istry, to the Na­tional Road Safety Au­thor­ity, and the Or Yarok As­so­ci­a­tion for Safer Driv­ing in Is­rael in or­der to solve this prob­lem.

“We don’t op­pose the use of elec­tric bi­cy­cles in prin­ci­ple, since they are a very con­ve­nient form of tran­spor­ta­tion. At the same time, we must un­der­stand the safety con­cerns and the pro­ce­dures sur­round­ing bi­cy­cle rid­ing. It’s in­te­gral that en­force­ment be un­equiv­o­cal when deal­ing with law­break­ers – both with drivers of ve­hi­cles and cy­clists. Ev­ery il­le­gal ac­tion will have con­se­quences. More­over, we here in the Coun­cil are also com­ing up with new plans of ac­tion, such as or­ga­niz­ing a cam­paign in­volv­ing pre­sen­ta­tions to stu­dents at schools. But it’s im­por­tant that we also make it clear that rid­ing elec­tric bi­cy­cles can be a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Ac­cord­ing to Or Yarok, from 2014 to 2017, the num­ber of ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing elec­tric bi­cy­cles tripled from 692 to 2,185. More­over, a third of the peo­ple in­jured were chil­dren or teens. Ac­cord­ing to the Science and Tech­nol­ogy Min­istry, 37% of youth do not know the speed limit for elec­tric bi­cy­cles and 30% are not aware of the law that re­quires cy­clists to wear a hel­met (73% say they ride with­out a hel­met). It’s also in­ter­est­ing to note that boys wear hel­mets less than girls, and the older the rid­ers, the less likely they are to wear a hel­met.

“IN MY opin­ion, en­force­ment needs to be more clear-cut. We also need to make in­roads re­gard­ing hel­met use – peo­ple can be hurt and die if they fall off their bi­cy­cles,” said S, a 12th grader from Tel Aviv who does not him­self ride a bi­cy­cle since there’s no in­fra­struc­ture in his area that al­lows him to do so safely.

“Ev­ery time I’ve rid­den my bi­cy­cle to school, even if there’s a bike lane, I’m al­ways fear­ful that some­one will come up be­hind me on the side­walk and I’ll get hurt.

I guess I’m pretty para­noid. It’s just that I’ve heard so many sto­ries about ac­ci­dents with elec­tric bikes.”

YONATAN BROSILOVSKY, a 10th grader from Her­zliya who rides a reg­u­lar (non-elec­tric) bi­cy­cle, agrees with S. Brosilovsky thinks the so­lu­tion would be to re­quire peo­ple to have a li­cense to ride an elec­tric bi­cy­cle, or at least some­thing that would re­quire rid­ers un­der 16 to take a course.

Why do you ride a reg­u­lar bi­cy­cle and not an elec­tric bi­cy­cle?

“For a few rea­sons. First of all, I’m not 16 yet, and any­way I don’t re­ally want to. I like bik­ing as a sport and I think elec­tric bike rid­ers should have to have a li­cense. Any­way, my par­ents wouldn’t let me.”

Do any of your friends ride elec­tric bi­cy­cles?

“Yes. Only a hand­ful of friends and I ride reg­u­lar bikes. Every­one else has an elec­tric bike. I use my bike mostly for sport – I take the bus to school. There re­ally aren’t any bike lanes, or even side­walks where I live, so it’s not a great place to ride a bike.”

Brosilovsky thinks that the kids un­der 16 who are caught rid­ing an elec­tric bi­cy­cle are given il­log­i­cal tick­ets. “Ev­ery few months a kid un­der 16 is caught and has to pay hun­dreds of shekels – ridicu­lous amounts.”

Do you and your friends wear hel­mets when you ride your bi­cy­cles?

“I do. My par­ents say I have to and any­way I would never ride with­out one. I know it’s ugly, but I don’t care.”

It sounds like you’re not the typ­i­cal bi­cy­cle rider.

“I guess it boils down to how you were ed­u­cated. I was taught to be care­ful. I don’t think the way to fix the sit­u­a­tion is by in­creas­ing fines. The way to go about this is to ed­u­cate the com­mu­nity. If you don’t know the traf­fic rules or how to ride safely, then you’re a dan­ger to your­self and those around you. Young peo­ple must lis­ten to the adults on this is­sue, and take re­spon­si­bil­ity for them­selves. We need to start a dis­cus­sion and get young peo­ple in­volved in a cam­paign to raise aware­ness. Young peo­ple need to prove that they are in­volved in the com­mu­nity and are re­spon­si­ble in­di­vid­u­als.”

(Ted Ey­tan/Flickr)

AC­CORD­ING TO Or Yarok, from 2014 to 2017, the num­ber of ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing elec­tric bi­cy­cles tripled.

(Avshalom Sas­soni)

‘I UN­DER­STAND that there are kids who are re­ally crazy rid­ers, but the peo­ple driv­ing cars also need to take some re­spon­si­bil­ity.’

(Ma­gen David Adom)

ARI NESHER: Taken too young.

(Avshalom Sas­soni)

‘EN­FORCE­MENT NEEDS to be more clear-cut.’

(Marc Is­rael Sellem)

‘IF YOU don’t know the traf­fic rules or how to ride safely, then you’re a dan­ger to your­self and those around you.’

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