New driver’s license instituted for electric bicycles

Move is part of broader government effort to increase regulation and enforcement for the popular but accident-causing vehicles

A man rides an electric bicycle in Tel Aviv on July 5, 2016. (Flickr/Ted Eytan/CC BY-SA)
A man rides an electric bicycle in Tel Aviv on July 5, 2016. (Flickr/Ted Eytan/CC BY-SA)

The Transportation Ministry announced Sunday the launch of a new category of driver’s license: for riders of electric bicycles.

The move is part of a broader plan to tackle a growing problem of young Israelis, many of them not old enough to drive cars, turning to electric bicycles as a primary means of transportation. The new vehicles have become a traffic nuisance and the cause of a growing number of accidents in Israel’s major urban centers.

In October, the government approved a plan to impose regulations on cyclists and the powered bicycles, including traffic and safety laws, as well as increasing fines for violations of those laws.

As part of the new effort, a new driver’s license category — dubbed A3 — will go into effect on January 1, 2019, for electric bicycle riders only. Unlike other licensing categories that can only be granted from age 17, the new license will be available to Israelis from age 15.5.

The written exam for the new license was made available at the country’s 45 driving test centers starting Sunday. It consists of 30 questions on traffic laws, bicycle safety, and pedestrian rights.

According to the Transportation Ministry, the new license category amounts to turning the dangerous new entry of large numbers of teenagers onto Israel’s roads into an opportunity to begin traffic safety education earlier.

The new electric bicycle rules announced in October imposed harsher fines on violators. Those caught riding a bicycle without a helmet now have to cough up NIS 1,000 ($268).

Fines of various amounts were introduced for previously unlisted violations, such as transporting another rider, cycling while drunk, or using a cellphone, as well as for riding through a red light.

Cyclists are also now required to wear safety vests at night.

The new measures were instituted after a teenager was killed in September by a drunk driver in Tel Aviv while riding on his friend’s bike, an incident that drew attention to growing safety concerns over electric bicycles.

In the wake of that incident, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed his chief of staff, Yoav Horovitz, the Ministry of Public Security, as well as the Justice and Transportation Ministries to propose a series of measures to increase the safety of electric bicycle riders.

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