Even though they are legal, police in Israel most definitely do not want you riding electric bikes – and are coming up with creative ways to discourage their use. In the Tel Aviv suburb of Kfar Saba, for example, cops are giving teen miscreants who use their phones while riding fines of NIS 1,000 ($270) – payable by them or their parents.
And in some cases, police have resorted to letting the air out of tires on bikes when they caught a rider who was acting in an irresponsible manner.
Police say there's a good reason for their heavy-handed tactics. In 2014, two people were killed in accidents involving electric bikes and scooters, neither of which require licenses, with 248 injured. So far this year, 1 person has been killed, but only 27 have been injured – a dramatic reduction in the number of injuries, police said, because of the tough stance they have been taking.
In recent months, Kfar Saba police said, they have been holding informal seminars around schoolyards and other sites where teens gather, informing them of the dangers of riding the bikes – to their person, if they get injured, and to their wallet, if they are caught riding in a dangerous manner. Among the offenses police stop riders for is riding on sidewalks, riding against traffic, riding without a helmet (Israeli law requires riders of even non-electric bikes to wear helmets), and other “by the book” enforcement.
The Knesset has been discussing tightening laws on electric bike use, possibly limiting use to riders only 16 and older – and requiring them to acquire licenses. In addition, another measure that has widespread Knesset support is to provide parking enforcement workers in Israeli cities with the power to issue tickets to dangerous bike riders.
Last week, a report said that a three year old girl was badly injured when she was run down by an electric bike rider. Besides issuing fines for cellphone use, the only tactic police can use to prevent a dangerous rider from using their bike is to remove the air from the tire. Police and MKS are intent on enhancing their range of options.