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.