Continuing slaughter – on the roads

From a Ynet report dated yesterday:

Traffic fatalities rise in 2016

The number of fatalities in road accidents in Israel currently stands at 32,959, more than all the fatalities of Israel’s wars and terrorist attacks. Of that total, 5,038 were children.

For the fourth consecutive year, the amount of fatalities has increased. 2016 has thus far seen 328 Israelis die on the roads, 14 more than the same period last year. To put that into perspective, 100 more fatalities were recorded in 2016 than 2012.

2016 marks an increase of 15 percent in the amount of drivers killed and a 20 percent increase in the amount of train passengers killed. However, in contrast, 2016 registered a decrease of 16 percent in the amount of motorcyclists killed and a decrease of 10 percent in the amount of pedestrians killed.

Part of the explanation is provided:

In 2015, the state comptroller issued several reports detailing the failures of the government in dealing with the dangers of the road. The report was critical of the lack of effective speed cameras, Ministry of Transportation policies that paralyzed the National Road Safety Authority, the severe shortage of police officers in the traffic division and the lack of effective police enforcement of regulations for pedestrians.

The comptroller attacked the Ministry of Education for drastically scaling back traffic education in schools, particularly on motorcycles, scooters and electric bicycles.

There has been a new law put in place to try and cut down the number of accidents involving electric bicycles and youngsters. There is no sign of that having any effect in Ra’anana. Kids still ride these electric bikes dangerously; they often overload them, drive too fast on the pavement, swerve in and out of traffic lanes, wear no protection, and rarely have any lights. They might as well be wearing a sign saying “Accident waiting to happen.”

Therefore, so far as I am concerned, passing laws is not good enough. Without enforcement that law is a public relations pretense that action has been taken. Action? Yes. Effective? No. Waste of time? So far, yes.

But the real slaughter involves cars on the roads. As if to underline the statistics, this is from today:

Three killed, toddler seriously injured in car crash

Crash took place overnight Saturday after two vehicles collided on Highway 79 in lower Galilee; paramedics forced to pronounce death of a man and two women after being extricated from vehicles; toddler evacuated to hospital having sustained head injuries; another man and woman hospitalized in serious condition, two youths lightly wounded.

Tragic.

Something needs to be done.

The non functioning speed cameras are a disgrace. The undermanned traffic police situation is also a disgrace. The lack of a modern, efficient traffic court system is, you guessed it, a disgrace. There’s a gaping hole in the concern our lawmakers have for the people of this country.

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Soon you can safely saddle up

Good news on the ebike front, as set out by the Jerusalem Post:

Regulations for electric bicycles to take effect September 1

Electric bikes will be permitted a maximum power level of 250 watts and travel speed not exceeding 25 kph, the transportation ministry says.

Riding electric bicycles – which have become a familiar sight on streets and train carriages – is scheduled to finally become legal on September 1, when regulations approved in the Knesset on Monday take effect.

The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee and Transportation Minister Israel Katz approved a series of rules that aim to standardize and secure what has become an increasingly popular transportation mode. Under the regulations, electric bikes will be permitted a maximum power level of 250 watts and travel speed not exceeding 25 kph, the Transportation Ministry said.

In accordance with European standards, electric motors must stop operating when the bikes’ speed surpass the 25 kph limit, the ministry added.

For background reading, see here.

This bit in the latest report made me laugh:

The regulations will also require the installation of a horn or bell, lights and reflectors, and riders will have to be over the age of 14.

Helmets are required for riders of all ages. The bikes must carry the officially notated and visible words “bicycle with motor assistance,” the ministry said.

Yeah, right…

Unsurprisingly, there’s no mention of mandatory insurance for ebike riders. So the situation is improved, but still needs attention.

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Never mind the law, ride!

Electric bikes are very popular – and expensive – in Israel. In most towns and cities you will see ebikes being ridden – typically by youngsters – in a manner guaranteed to break every applicable law of the road, and with a total disregard for safety.

I do not doubt these ebikes have a place in modern day transport, but the lack of regulation – apparently – about the bikes themselves, who can ride them, how they can ride them, and so on, is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, I expect there to be fatalities. Nobody seems to care.

So, it’s a bit of a mixed blessing that I spotted this article in the online Jerusalem Post:

American-Israeli entrepreneur teaches Israel, the world about DIY electric bikes

Micah Toll has created a colorful manual of more than 100 pages, to enable bikers to assemble the bikes at a low cost.

For American-Israeli immigrant Micah Toll, pedaling through Pittsburgh – and now Tel Aviv – on an electric bicycle does not mean shelling out thousands of shekels.

“For the longest time, people haven’t been able to afford them,” Toll told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

As a University of Pittsburgh mechanical engineering student in 2009, Toll and his friends decided that using electric bikes would be a good alternative to the inconvenient public transportation and the hilly terrain of their city. Upon researching the price tags of electric bikes, however, they decided that building ebikes of their own would be the preferable option.

After launching a start-up with a new ebike prototype, the friends received an investment offer, but some of the partners were nervous about taking on such a large amount of money and they chose to decline.

“I decided if my start-up isn’t going to be successful right now, I still wanted to contribute to the ebike revolution,” Toll said.

Toll therefore decided to publish a colorful manual of more than 100 pages – first in ebook form and then in paperback – to enable bikers to assemble ebikes on their own. Altogether, he has received more than 500 orders for The Ultimate Do-It-Yourself Ebike Guide, and has now launched a campaign to fund the publication of a hardcover version.

In addition to moving forward with publishing his hardcover book, Toll is in the process of launching a community- based website for do-it-yourself ebikers, he told the Post.

“I’ve been getting incredible responses from people,” he said. “The market has been looking for something like this.”

Interesting. Anything that reduces the costs would normally be good news.

However, I though this piece from later in the article was the shocker:

Israel launched regulations regarding electric bicycle safety and use in 2010, but they expired in 2011 without renewal. Technically, traveling on ebikes in Israel is currently illegal, despite their popularity. About two weeks ago, the National Road Safety Authority therefore demanded that the government approve relevant safety regulations for the bikes.

You can, of course, take ‘technically’ out of the sentence. Traveling on ebikes is illegal in Israel.

By any reasonable standards, that is a scandal. However, assuming there are – eventually – regulations, will they be enforced? And what about policing how they are used? Too much to expect, I suppose.

Check out the whole article, here.

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