Use your head

It’s unusual for Haaretz to feature a piece on a proposal for a new law, without using words like “fascist”, “anti-democratic”, “stifling free speech”, or whatever buzz words of self hate happen to be in vogue with their writing personnel. But today is an exception: Israel mulls ban on biking with headphones

Bicycle riders would be forbidden to listen to music via earphones while on the road, according to a bill to be discussed by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday. No such ban exists in other countries’ legislation, but co-sponsor Zeev Bielski (Kadima) said that two local cycling organizations have said they would support it.

While the bill would impose various new restrictions on cyclists, it also contains several provisions aimed at benefiting them. For instance, police would be required to designate parts of certain existing roads as specially protected bike lanes and announce the locations of these roads via the media. In addition, cars would be required to maintain a distance of at least 1.5 meters from cyclists.

In recent years, the government has tried to encourage cycling, both for environmental reasons and to reduce traffic on the roads. However, subsequent experience has shown that on intercity roads, the dangers to human life caused by an increase in cycling outweigh the benefits: There has been a noticeable rise in the number of accidents in which cyclists were injured, wrote the bill’s sponsors, Bielski and MK Yariv Levin (Likud), in their notes to the bill.

The bill therefore proposes various ways of making cycling safer, including the ban on listening to music and the designation of new bike lanes. It would also require cyclists to wear reflective clothing and proposes that at night, local roads that do not get much traffic be closed to cars to make them safer for cyclists.

It also states that if a road designated by the police as having a protected bike lane cannot be closed entirely to vehicular traffic, police would have to station patrol cars at the road’s entrances. When stopping cars to warn them of the cycling zone, police would also check to see if the driver appears to be drunk or overtired, and if so, the car would not be allowed to enter the area.

Finally, the bill would require police to beef up motorcycle patrols of any designated bike road that is also used by cars.

Unfortunately, the picture (by Nir Kafri) used to illustrate the story, also brilliantly illustrates an absolutely crucial failing of Israeli cyclists; one that ensures – no matter the law – cycling is more dangerous than it should be:

...And they are passing all these new laws to make cycling safer. How cool is that?

Spot the clue? Where are their helmets? It is inex-bloody-cusable to ride a bike without wearing a helmet. But some local riders feel they know better. Sad. Sad. Sad.