Saturday, April 30, 2016

Cracking Down on Electric Bicycles

A 250 shekel fine imposed on bicycle riding on Tel Aviv sidewalks - Ibn Gvirol at Arlozorov, April 2016
Police in Tel Aviv now stop and fine electric bicycle riders on city sidewalks. On a few main streets, I have seen police officers stop riders. This seems to be happening on large streets with narrow sidewalks (Derech Ha'shalom into Tel Aviv, Ibn Gvirol Street). On streets in Givatay'im in early afternoon when high school children ride in packs through commercial streets (Katzenelson and Waitzman Streets). Besides terrorizing pedestrians on busy commercial streets, an accident can cause real trauma. Up to now accidents caused a few bruzed muscles and broken bones. But as more bikers ride on sidewalks, the inevitable serious accident it just a matter of when not if.
The electric bicycle trend has taken Tel Aviv by storm. At first electric bicycles were a curiosity, maybe another alternative transportation mode in a city with chronic parking shortage and commute time grid lock are an annoyance for years. But the electrified models came at a time where government efforts to introduce more bicycling seemed like a good idea. Tel Aviv introduced a bicycling rental by the hour program. Copying London's program, a resident can sign up for a yearly pass and pay 280 shekels (see city bicycling rental page, HE). The Tel-O-Fun program is adding a few biking enthusiasts to Tel Aviv streets, but seems more of a publicity effort than a real transportation solution. There is talk about adding bicycle lanes, but besides bicycle traffic lights along the beach path, to me this seems like a long term political babble. So if you come to Tel Aviv, and see "everyone" biking on sidewalks. Look for the marked bike paths. Or give the police a story how in London and Amsterdam bikes and pedestrians have equal rights. It could get you off a 250 shekel fine (about US$ 62.50). Otherwise just ride the streets and as they say "be careful out there!"


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