The victims started to stream into the hospital already in 2014 and 2015, when electric bikes hit the road, or to be more exact the sidewalks – in the absence of any age restrictions, specific legislation, supervision or enforcement. In early 2015 they realized in Ichilov that this was a phenomenon with new dimensions. “One day Dr. Oren Tavor came into my room and said: ‘We’re feeling a wave of mortal danger from electric bikes. Children aged 8 and 10 are riding electric bikes without helmets and are being injured,” says Shoshan.
“In the emergency room and the orthopedics department too, they told me that they were seeing a big increase in the number of injured. And one day I got a phone call from the director of the emergency room who told me: ‘We have the first fatality from an electric bike – an 85-year-old man, who crossed the street and was hit.”
As a result of the incident they decided spontaneously in Ichilov to release a protest video, which was led by the doctors. The video that was filmed independently within a few hours may have been low budget, but it was effective: four doctors standing in front of the camera and describing injuries that were referred to them, and at the end they raise signs that read – ‘Stop the electric bikes!’” says Shoshan.
The video quickly went viral, was covered in all the media and to this day is the subject of mass viewings in the wake of terrible accidents that make the headlines. “The video and the articles following it led to a decline of 75 percent in the stream of casualties in the two months after its release,” says Tavor.
The film was only the beginning. “For Dr. Tavor it turned into a lifetime project. He started attending discussions with the police, testified in various forums, attended proceedings in the Knesset,” says Shoshan. According to Tavor, “The main outcry was to the government and through it to enforcement authorities. It’s unconscionable that a new vehicle is introduced, and there’s no change in the legal and enforcement systems.
“This is a motor vehicle for all intents and purposes, and children have no awareness of the danger – they put on earphones, are in their own world and endanger their surroundings and themselves. The parents were unaware that electric vehicles are a weapon – like giving a child a loaded gun. We tried in many different ways to make this clear, together with organizations like Or Yarok [Association for Safer Driving] and Beterem [Safe Kids Israel], until the Knesset defined clear rules.”
And beginning in 2016-2017 new regulations were instituted, which introduce a degree of order into the urban jungle: restriction of the riding age to 16, the obligation to wear a helmet, restriction of speed to 25 kph, a prohibition against riding with earphones and of giving a ride to an additional passenger. Later on a prohibition against riding on the sidewalk went into effect, and the riders were sent to bicycle paths and the street.
Tavor says that as a result of the regulations, young children are no longer seen riding electric bicycles, but there are new problems. “It’s true that there has been a significant decline in injuries to pedestrians, but we’re seeing more injuries of riders and an increase in their seriousness. Every week there are dozens of injured. Electric scooters and bikes are vulnerable, weak vehicles, and unfortunately many of those riding in the street also flout the rules of caution – for example, they don’t wear helmets, or they give friends a ride, which greatly endangers the additional passenger.”
In the hospital they consider this campaign a part of its public role. “Who will make an issue of this if not us?” says Shoshan. “The role of the hospital is to be aware of the community, to see these phenomena and to deal with them. It’s impossible to see such a blight and not to sound an alarm.” He says that in the past five years the hospital has initiated over 100 articles on the subject, published its own posts and worked with the police, the Knesset and the Tel Aviv municipality.
You’ve succeeded in bringing about a change in the legislation, and in making it more rigorous. What’s the next goal?
Tavor: “We must have serious enforcement, because the feeling is that nobody is taking real responsibility for this and enforcement falls between the local authorities, the police and the Transportation Ministry. There have to be licensing exams, theoretical exams and ID numbers on these vehicles – so that the drivers can be found in case of an accident. The feeling is that this is a vehicle that has joined the road in a very significant way, and the system is making every effort to ignore it. It’s like saying that there’s no global warming.”
Source: read the full article on Haaretz, Ronny Linder
Header image: el Aviv Israel July 15, 2019 View of unknown Israeli people collecting electric scooters in the streets of Tel Aviv in the afternoon.