Riding into danger: The growing menace of electric bikes

Riding into danger: The growing menace of electric bikes

A father is hoping his Facebook campaign against the danger of electric bikes in Israel will finally persuade the authorities to take urgent action

A boy on an ebike in Netanya
A boy on an ebike in Netanya

Israeli parents are at last waking up to the dangers of electric bicycles and scooters, thanks to a father’s furious post on Facebook addressed to “the morons whose child I nearly murdered this morning”.

Raziel Peer, from Jerusalem, was collecting his eight-year-old son from school. “Suddenly there was a boy aged eight or nine that just came straight out in front of me, without stopping or looking. And without a helmet…

“My own son was sitting in the car with me. He’s the same age. I can still hear his scream – Abbaaaa! Lo! [Dad! No!]”

Afterwards, says Peer, the little boy he hit simply ran off, leaving his bike laying crushed on the road.

“As a father, it made me so furious,” Peer told Israel’s Channel Two TV.

In his post, which garnered 52,000 “likes” he rages against the parents of the young cyclist: “Did your son bring children into the world? Did he get his degree after becoming an outstanding officer in the army? No! ..What were you two fools thinking before you sent him out into my path?”

Electrically-assisted bikes are growing in popularity across Europe. Globally, 35 million “E-bikes” were sold in 2015. In the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, they are marketed as an environmentally-friendly way to allow everyone to enjoy cycling, irrespective of age or fitness level. In Israel, however, they have been embraced by a much younger clientele. Israeli children commonly travel to and from school independently, on foot or by bike. The E-bikes have fast become a must-have accessory for children and teenagers, and a deadly danger on roads and pavements.

The bikes are designed to reach a top speed of 25 kilometres an hour (15.5 mph), but many Israeli teens are adapting the motors to go much faster than this. They zip silently along roads and pavements, often with two or even three riders piled on to the seat.

Despite E-bikes being involved in hundreds of traffic accidents each year, the government has been slow to legislate and to enforce the rules. Back in 2014, a lowest age limit of 14 was set by the Ministry of Transport. In mid-2016, this was raised to 16. Bikes are not to be ridden on the pavements, and each one must have a horn or a bell, lights and reflectors.

In practice, however, these rules are simply not being enforced.Germany Electric Bikes Kappstein

In two separate incidents in Beersheva, three teenagers were left severely injured and one was killed as a result of riding electric bikes in the city in the dark, reportedly without lights or helmets.

Shmuel Abuav, director general of Or Yarok (Green Light), the road safety organisation, says: “Electric bicycles have been proven as life-threatening to both cyclists and other road-users. Accordingly, the police and local authorities have a responsibility to take care of full enforcement of regulations and not to allow children to go on this dangerous tool.”

Senior doctors at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv have published their own campaign to try to get the message across.

“Parents must understand that you don’t give an 11-year-old an electric bicycle because of peer pressure,” says Dr. Oren Tavor, head of Paediatric Orthopaedics. “It’s a weapon.”

Every week, according to the orthopaedic doctors, they are carrying out operations on riders of electric bikes, as well as treating those who have been knocked down by the machines.

In Jerusalem, Raziel Peer hopes that his outburst will finally have  brought the message home to parents not to buy these expensive gadgets for their children. “I got a lot of reactions from parents who said they’re taking away electric scooters and bikes from their kids,” he said. “And I got a call from a mother whose son is still in hospital.

“This is the reality. I think parents aren’t doing enough to say no to their children. And this is the result.”

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