Electric bicycles will no longer be allowed in certain parts of Beersheba, the city announced Sunday, as Israel grapples with how to regulate the vehicles amid an uptick in collisions with pedestrians.
The southern city’s mayor, Ruvik Danilovich, indicated the decision to enforce electric bike use was made due to safety concerns.
“Electric bikes and scooters are dangerous for pedestrians and we must act to ensure the safety of road users and the safety of cyclists alike, most of whom are minors and don’t yet have a car license,” Danilovich said, according to Ynet.
“This is a vehicle for all intents and purposes, and we must take action to ban … [electric bike] use … before a disaster takes place,” he said.
Electric bikes have become increasingly popular across the country in recent years — seen as a cheaper, “green” alternative to motorbikes and cars, and often, a quicker ride to work or school as they enable cyclists to skirt around traffic with little effort.
However, given the poor cycling infrastructure in place and irregular bicycle paths in cities, cyclists are sometimes forced to use pedestrian footpaths, while pedestrians unknowingly make use use of bike lanes.
In February, Antonio Raya, 85, of Givatayim was run over and killed by a cyclist in Tel Aviv in a hit-and-run accident. The cyclist was never caught.
The Interior Ministry is also planning to clamp down on the phenomenon with a meeting on electric bicycle enforcement scheduled Monday, while Israel Police is mulling its own set of recommendations that demand that cyclists carry permits and banning riding for those aged under 16.
The traffic regulation department at Israel police released a statement dubbing electric bicycles “murder weapons,” while transportation subdivision chief Sarit Philipson indicated she would push to regulate — and possibly criminalize — electric bike use in certain circumstances.
“At the top of our agenda is saving the lives of cyclists and pedestrians … the current situation must be changed,” Philipson said.
“Today, a 16-year-old can acquire a motor scooter license and this is what we want to see when it comes to motorized bicycles [as well],” she said, adding that testing will make cyclists become acquainted with road rules.