Raanana Concerned Residents (RCR) ... from left: Vic Essakow, Joel Klotnick, Mel Cohen and Stephen Kohn. Missing from the line-up is John Cohen
Electric bikes and scooters are a common sight on sidewalks all over Israel. Their riders travel at speed, ignoring cycle lanes, jeopardizing their own safety and the safety of pedestrians, as well as placing motorists at risk by racing through pedestrian crossings at intersections.
Not only do the cyclists usually fail to wear safety helmets, they often talk on mobile phones and sometimes even ride with two or even three passengers on a single cycle. There is a total disregard for their safety and the safety of other members of the public.
To date, there have been fatalities in Beersheva and Tel Aviv, and several incidents in the Sharon area, some resulting in serious injuries, as well as numerous close encounters that are generally unreported.
A small group of Raanana concerned residents (known as RCR), whose members include Mel Cohen, Joel Klotnick, Stephen Kohn and John Cohen, has recently been established in an effort to combat the danger posed by electric bikes. The group wants above all to accelerate the introduction of a program to educate the young cyclists and their parents about the latest legislation concerning electric bikes and road safety.
The police have appointed traffic wardens to establish a formal presence on the roads to enforce the legislation. The RCR has the assistance of Or Yarok (the Association for Safer Driving) and the Road Safety Organization, who are also committed to improving the current situation. This includes “fine-tuning the law” to deal with issues that are currently not covered, such as compulsory third party insurance for the cyclists.
Before issuing stiff fines for infringements and severe penalties for multiple and repeat offenders, the police and other relevant authorities, together with RCR, recently carried out an educational blitz along Ahuza Street in Raanana, issuing verbal warnings and handing out pamphlets informing cyclists of their legal obligations.
We saw the blitz as a positive first step. We learned a lot from the bike riders that we stopped - mainly their ignorance of the law. Not knowing the law is no excuse, but in our opinion the RCR function going forward should be:
- To push for the educational program through schools, mass media, Or Yarok, and local authority initiatives.
- To push for amendments to the law with contacts in the Knesset. For example,it should be specified what riders are allowed to carry on their bike - bags, parcels etc. There should also be registration of the bikes and thevendorshould be obligated to hand out a copy of the law and make the buyer sign that he has received it. This signed copy should be sent to some authority (local or national) for filing. This will elevate the issue of “ignorance”.
- Insurance obligations
- To keep up the pressure on the municipality to speed up the development of cycle tracks. This was obvious when most of the people we stopped asked: “Where do you expect us to ride?” Riding on the road is a bad option for both cyclist and motorist.
- To enforce the law on an ongoing basis. Numerous pedestrians who passed us were thankful for our actions as they felt unsafe on the pedestrian paths. It was also obvious that the presence of a person wearing a police uniform had a major impact on most of the younger generation. Maybe having a police representative present at the school and a parent education program will also have a greater impact.