What does the Torah say about… cars and cyclists?

With Rabbi Moshe Mayerfeld.

LOOKING FOR a biblical source for road safety? A teacher of mine once joked that you need to look no further than Numbers 20:18: “Red (Edom) says to the Jewish people – do not pass through me!” There is no question that Jewish wisdom deals directly and extensively with safety and engaging in healthy activity. Deuteronomy 4:9: “Greatly beware for your soul”.

The deeper meaning of this verse is offered in the Talmud to also mean that one must guard one’s health. The risks of the road are often underestimated.

While fatal driving statistics have continued to improve over the decades, driving our cars remains the single most dangerous activity most of us perform during the day. The Torah therefore warns us: “Be very aware of your safety; don’t become complacent”. Riding a bicycle also requires awareness and safety.

The health benefits it provides its rider, as well as the speed available in areas normally filled with motor vehicle traffic are a big draw for many. Cycling has become more and more popular and, once again, when one rides sensibly, people can fulfill their Torah obligation to exercise and guard their health.

The challenge really arises when these two modes of transport “collide”. I was recently in conversation with a taxi driver, who expressed great concern about the recent tragedies with some fatal collisions. He shared his dream of a safer, kinder road.

The bike rider and the automobile each wishing to occupy the same space, with each day providing us with the chance to hone our skills of sharing and giving. It’s easy to live in our own little bubble, consumed with ourselves. If we care and are considerate of one another, we create space. Space for one another, space for ourselves, space for bikes and for cars.

Regarding character traits, Maimonides writes: “That a person should follow the golden ‘path of the middle’ and not lean towards one extreme or the other.”

Like the bike itself, we need balance. If you lean too far to one side, you’ll fall off. And indeed our roads need to be shared. Both the bike and the car are tools – it’s not the end goal. As the driver of either of them we need to be sensible and careful, respectful and mindful that we don’t own the road, and if you use it well, you can really get somewhere – together.

• Rabbi Moshe Mayerfeld, Aish UK Director.